If Jared Janczak had followed TCU pitching coach Kirk Saarloos’ advice, he might not be in Omaha right now.
The Horned Frogs liked what they had in Janczak as a true freshman 18 months ago but didn’t know where the 6-foot-1 right-hander from Belton fit in. But they had an idea.
“We were talking to him, ‘Hey, it might be a good idea to go to junior college and get some innings,” Saarloos said. “And we’ll recruit you right back.”
That didn’t fit what Janczak had in mind.
“He said, ‘Well, coach. I know I can pitch here. I’m a good student. I don’t get into any trouble. I don’t want to leave.’ ”
Saarloos found himself unable to argue.
“I said, ‘You’re right,’ ” Saarloos said. “ ‘You’re a great student. You haven’t done anything wrong. You say you’re going to show it to us. All right. Perfect.’ ”
The Horned Frogs redshirted Janczak, and he took the year to develop into what he is now — the Game 1 starter in a College World Series.
“I knew what I was capable of,” Janczak said. “I wasn’t intimidated. I got redshirted partially because the pitching staff before me was just full of guys. I knew it wasn’t because I wasn’t good enough. I just knew there wasn’t a spot yet because there were older guys that were better that had proven their worth.”
This week, it’s no surprise to see Janczak taking the ball first for TCU. But last week it was, when Schlossnagle tabbed him for the opener of the College Station Super Regional against Texas A&M. Janczak rewarded his coach by delivering a victory with 7 2/3 innings, holding the Aggies to two runs.
“He was a surprise starter, but I wasn’t surprised by his performance,” third baseman Elliott Barzilli said. “He did really great. It’s what’s expected out of the pitching program, what every other pitcher has done throughout the season. He’s a really great pitcher.”
Janczak’s first 19 appearances were out of the bullpen, and he was 5-3 with a 2.22 ERA. He pitched a then-season-high 5 1/3 innings in relief at Penn State on May 8, allowing one earned run, and then got the news from coach Jim Schlossnagle.
“Literally, I was on the mound, he took the ball from me and said, ‘You get ready to start next week,’ ” Janczak said. “That was kind of cool.”
He started at Baylor the next week, struck out four and walked four and left with two outs in the sixth inning in a 2-2 game. The Frogs eventually won 7-3 to start a seven-game winning streak, the beginning of a 14-2 stretch that has them in Omaha.
Janczak is 2-0 with a 2.67 ERA, 23 strikeouts and eight walks in 30 1/3 innings as a starter.
“It’s been my goal to be a starter,” Janczak said. “So I knew once I got that role I wasn’t going to let it go.”
The confidence doesn’t surprise anyone.
“Really good competitive kid,” Saarloos said. “There are a lot of attributes you can see on paper or see with your own eyes. One of the things you can’t see is what he has, kind of that ‘it’ factor. He’s a guy that’s not scared of a situation.”
Like pitching against national seed Texas A&M in a hostile environment?
“I wasn’t nervous,” Janczak said. “I was excited to get out there and play. I kind of knew what to expect at Aggieland. I’ve been there a few times.”
Saarloos remembers what he told Janczak before that start last week.
“I said, ‘Go out and enjoy this tonight. Go out and have some fun,’ ” Saarloos said. “He said, ‘Coach, I can’t tell you how much fun I’m going to have. Last year I was in summer ball watching you guys on TV, and now I get to be part of it.”
Instead of somewhere in junior college.
College World Series
TCU vs. Texas Tech
2 p.m. Sunday, ESPNU