TCU began baseball practice last week with such a veteran team, coach Jim Schlossnagle has hardly ever seen anything like it.
And probably has ever wanted to see anything like it.
“It isn’t very often in college baseball that you have eight seniors,” he said and tried to hold back a smile. “If you do, they’re usually not very good players.”
Nope, the best players are typically long gone to pro baseball by their senior years, if they even got to college baseball.
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“That’s absolutely not the case with this bunch,” the veteran TCU coach said. “Almost all of them are going to get a chance to play professional baseball after this year. It’s just for whatever reason — they weren’t signable or really wanted their degree or really valued the program and didn’t want to go off and play — they’re back.”
The prime example is right-hander Preston Morrison, who led the team in ERA and starts last year.
“He could have been a guy drafted in the sixth to 12th round, but he wasn’t signable in those areas because he really wants to graduate,” Schossnagle said.
“I wanted to win a national championship,” Morrison said. “I wanted to be a part of this brotherhood one last time.”
The brotherhood will have to deliver if the Horned Frogs are going to compete for a national championship. The eight seniors are not on the roster merely for one more fun ride:
▪ Much is expected from the returning starters, shortstop Keaton Jones, second baseman Garrett Crain, third baseman Derek Odell and center fielder Cody Jones.
▪ Jeremie Fagnan is going to get the first shot at first base now that he is fully recovered from hip labrum surgery, but he can also DH and play right field.
“He played hurt all year, but he can do a lot of really good things on a baseball field,” Schlossnagle said.
▪ Pitchers Trey Teakell and Travis Evans were second and fifth on the team in appearances last year, respectively.
With so many returning innings and at-bats — not to mention junior closer Riley Ferrell — it will be hard to throw anything at the Horned Frogs that they haven’t seen before. That’s a big advantage in college baseball, where it’s not uncommon for teams to change drastically from year to year.
“Just getting those guys back is big, but they all have to improve,” Schlossnagle said. “Because there’s only one guy in that whole bunch who has hit over .300 in their whole career, and that’s Garrett Crain.”
The Horned Frogs naturally expect to improve. What they want to guard against is assuming they will.
“We all have to be leaders on our team,” said Keaton Jones, whose position as shortstop makes him a de facto leader, no matter what. “We all have to hold each other accountable. The hardest is to hold each other accountable when you’re all the same age, the seniors.
“It’s easy to hold a freshman accountable, because he’s never been there. The hard part is holding each other accountable, the upperclassmen. We’ve been doing a good job so far.”
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7760
TCU baseball key dates
Feb. 13: Season opener vs. Southern Illinois, 6:30 p.m.
March 13: Big 12 opener vs. Baylor, 6:30, p.m.
May 20: Big 12 tournament begins, Tulsa
May 25: Postseason selections
May 29: Regionals begin
June 5: Super Regionals begin
June 13: College World Series begins