TCU could have tried to get Luken Baker back as a pitcher, but not without a treatment that perhaps would affect his swing, coach Jim Schlossnagle said Friday at the College World Series.
Baker leads the Horned Frogs in batting average, slugging, on-base percentage, runs scored, hits, RBIs and total bases.
He was 3-1 on the mound but has not pitched since April 22, when he left in the second inning of a start at Oklahoma State because of a muscle strain.
Schlossnagle is not surprised Baker has continued to hit well.
“As long as it wasn’t going to affect his swing — which is one of the reasons why we shut him down and didn’t do any further injections or surgery or anything like that — I didn’t think it would affect him at all,” Schlossnagle said. “He’s a pretty sound individual. He’s the perfect combination of confidence on the field and humility away from the field, so I had no doubt he would continue.”
Baker was hitting .344 with 36 RBIs, 24 walks and 23 strikeouts in 35 games going into the Oklahoma State start. Now, 28 games since the pitching injury, he is hitting .379 with 57 RBIs, 44 walks and 37 strikeouts.
Schlossnagle and Baker both expect that he will pitch next year. He was 3-1 with a 1.70 ERA in 10 starts.
“I enjoy doing both. As long as I can do both, I’m going to,” Baker said. “Until I’m not good enough to do one or the other, I’m going to do both.”
Schlossnagle said Baker has always managed both parts of his game.
“He’s been doing it his whole life. It wasn’t a work-ethic thing,” Schlossnagle said. “It’s not like he’s getting more swings now than he did then. Mentally, maybe it’s one less thing to worry about. But he was swinging the bat well at that point and has had a good season all the way through.”
Schlossnagle said he has not signed his contract extension, but only because he has not had a chance.
“It’s not because I’m holding it up,” he said. “There’s just one thing to work out on my end with my assistants.”
Athletic director Chris Del Conte said last week that the school and Schlossnagle agreed in principle to a contract extension. He said it was not in response to any specific job opening, but he acknowledged that he takes the “national landscape” into account.
Texas Tech starter
The Red Raiders will start freshman left-hander Steven Gingery, who allowed one run in five innings last week against versus East Carolina, against the Horned Frogs on Sunday.
Gingery pitched four innings in an April 30 start at TCU, allowing a run, walking two and striking out six.
TCU is 13-6 versus left-handed starters.
The Horned Frogs also saw Tech relievers Robert Dugger, Ryan Moseley (six runs without retiring a batter), Parker Mushinski (Game 3 save), Dalton Brown, Jacob Patterson, Ty Harpenau and Hayden Howard in the April series.
TCU starter Jared Janczak gave up an unearned run on three hits and struck out six in three innings of relief against Tech on April 30.
TCU shortstop Ryan Merrill is an Omaha native, so he not only gets to play in the College World Series, he gets to do it in his hometown.
“That’s a big reason why I chose TCU,” he said. “Just to come back to Omaha and play here.”
Merrill is in his first year as a starter after transferring from Iowa Western. He is the Horned Frogs’ second-leading hitter in the NCAA tournament at .304 with a double and two RBIs.
“When TCU came to the World Series last year, I was already committed,” he said. “I was like, ‘Man, we can do this.’ I was ready to come down. It would be a dream come true.”
▪ TCU is 7-1 in neutral-site games this season, having won three games at the Shriners Hospital for Children College Classic at Minute Maid Park in Houston and four of five at the Big 12 tournament at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City.
▪ TCU is 63-36 in neutral-site games under Schlossnagle.
▪ TCU leads the all-time series against Texas Tech 90-72-1, including a 22-10 mark under Schlossnagle.