TCU

TCU optimistic about chances with staff approach on mound

TCU pitcher Brian Howard prepares to deliver during a June 5 start against Arizona State at the Fort Worth Regional. The Horned Frogs’ likely starter Tuesday at the College World Series, he is coming off two strong starts in NCAA postseason action.
TCU pitcher Brian Howard prepares to deliver during a June 5 start against Arizona State at the Fort Worth Regional. The Horned Frogs’ likely starter Tuesday at the College World Series, he is coming off two strong starts in NCAA postseason action. AP

One of the first things the TCU pitching staff heard from coach Jim Schlossnagle was that they were going to have to be a pitching staff.

As in, collective.

This would not be a year when four pitchers would make 90 percent of the starts. The loss of Mitchell Traver for the first three months of the season, and the muscle strain that shut down Luken Baker two months in only added weight to Schlossnagle’s words.

And yet, the Horned Frogs returned to the College World Series and are optimistic about their chances after an opening-game victory that required the use of four arms, starter Jared Janczak and relievers Brian Trieglaff, Ryan Burnett and Durbin Feltman.

TCU used six starters in its CWS year of 2010, six in 2014 and five in 2015. This year, the Horned Frogs have used eight, in part because of injuries to Mitchell Traver and Luken Baker.

Nothing unusual, in other words.

“We’re beyond that,” Schlossnagle said. “That’s been the story all year long. I think we’ve turned what was perceived as a negative into a positive.”

In the past two trips to Omaha, the Frogs could assign a starter four games deep — Preston Morrison, Alex Young, Traver and Tyler Alexander in 2015, and Brandon Finnegan, Morrison, Alexander and Jordan Kipper in 2014.

In the 2010 trip, it was automatic that Matt Purke, Steven Maxwell and Kyle Winkler were going to start the first three games.

This year, it’s been more of a challenge. But part of that’s fun. It’s made us stronger to have to go through that because now everybody’s available, and they can do multiple things.

TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle, on the pitching staff

This year, it’s not as easy to project. The rotation has changed even as postseason play began.

In the Big 12 tournament, it was Dalton Horton, Traver, Janczak, Brian Howard and Rex Hill.

In the Fort Worth Regional, it was Traver, Janczak, Howard. In the College Station Super Regional, it was Janczak, Traver, Howard.

Star-Telegram columnist Gil Lebreton and staff writer Carlos Mendez give their thoughts on Luken Baker and wonder what they know about Coastal Carolina.

“Last year it was four or five guys and then two guys at the end,” Schlossnagle said. “We stayed healthy all year, ended up in the World Series. This year, it’s been more of a challenge. But part of that’s fun. It’s made us stronger to have to go through that, because now everybody’s available, and they can do multiple things.”

Twelve pitchers have accumulated 20-plus innings, and lightly used freshman Dalton Brown was given an extra load in the Big 12 tournament.

1.86 ERA by 10 pitchers, three starters and seven relievers, for TCU in seven games in the NCAA postseason. They have totaled 60 strikeouts and 14 walks in 63 innings.

“It starts with starting pitching, obviously,” Traver said. “But all these guys have stepped up in big ways. Being able to collectively know that whoever you run out there is going to be able to get the job done, it’s just a confidence booster.”

Howard and Traver almost certainly will get the second and third starts for TCU, probably in that order.

For a fourth game, or more, if necessary? That may be where the “staff” concept comes into play the most.

“I like what we have as a staff,” Traver said. “I know our whole team feels the same way. Plenty to offer. Right now, we’re doing well because we’re executing good pitches.”

The Horned Frogs slugger said he knew someone would reach base ahead of him in the ninth inning Sunday at the College World Series to give him an at-bat. His three-run homer won the opener against Texas Tech.

Horned Frogs coach Jim Schlossnagle says Luken Baker, the hero of the College World Series win against Texas Tech, is a mature hitter after 60-plus games.

Carlos Mendez: 817-390-7760, @calexmendez

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