Being three wins away from a national championship only made Brian Howard want another chance.
That’s why the right-hander is coming back to TCU for his senior year, eager to build on a dominant postseason run that positions him as the potential No. 1 starter for the Horned Frogs next year.
“Getting as close as we did made me want it even more,” he said. “So once the season ended, I pretty much knew.”
Howard was drafted in the 17th round by the Houston Astros, one of six TCU players (and five pitchers) taken. Mitchell Traver announced Thursday that he would return to TCU after being drafted in the 17th round by the Cincinnati Reds.
The others pitchers drafted — Brian Trieglaff, Preston Guillory and Rex Hill — have agreed to or are negotiating pro contracts. Third baseman Elliott Barzilli, taken in the 29th round by the Astros, is also returning to school.
I just felt we had a lot more to accomplish as a team, and I owe a lot to this university.
TCU pitcher Brian Howard
“I just felt we had a lot more to accomplish as a team, and I owe a lot to this university,” Howard said. “I had a solid season overall and can build on that going into my senior year and maybe get us closer to a national championship.”
Howard, a 6-foot-9 junior from St. Louis, went 4-0 in the postseason, defeating Texas at the Big 12 tournament, Arizona State to win the Fort Worth Regional, Texas A&M to win Game 3 of the College Station Super Regional and Coastal Carolina at the College World Series.
It was his best four-game stretch of the season, with a 1.35 ERA, 29 strikeouts and seven walks in 26 2/3 innings. He finished 10-2 and led the Horned Frogs in starts, innings, victories and strikeouts.
“We are all excited that Brian will return for his senior year,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “He has been a big part of our pitching staff and brings outstanding leadership and energy to our program every day.”
Right-hander Brian Howard led the Horned Frogs in starts, innings, victories and strikeouts in 2016. In three years at TCU, he is 14-2 with a 3.25 ERA, 153 strikeouts and 54 walks in 157 2/3 innings.
With Howard back, TCU stands to return two-thirds of its postseason rotation if Jared Janczak continues to start. Dalton Horton, who was 8-0 as a freshman before a tired arm limited him to two starts in May, and Luken Baker, who Schlossnagle said won’t pitch this summer as he rests a muscle strain from April, will also be in the mix to return to the rotation.
“He tells us we have nothing to worry about, but it’s coming down to the wire,” Schlossnagle said. “Until we get him here and get past July 15, the signing deadline, we won’t be able to rest easy. But if we can get him here to campus and he gets involved with everything, I’ll feel a lot better about it then.”
The 6-foot-5 Lodolo was 8-2 with a 1.97 ERA and 83 strikeouts in 65 innings at La Verna (Calif.) Damien High School.
TCU lost one top recruit, junior college pitcher Mathias Dietz, who signed with the Baltimore Orioles after being taken in the second round. He was 12-1 with 117 strikeouts in 103 innings at Logan Community College in Illinois last season.
72.2Percent of its innings from 2016 that TCU stands to return in 2017 (423.1 of 586.1). The returning innings leaders are Brian Howard (98.2), Jared Janczak (82.2), Dalton Horton (59.1), Luken Baker (47.2) and Durbin Feltman (34.2).
Howard said he long believed he would opt for professional baseball after his junior season, but Preston Morrison’s example from two years ago also influenced him. Morrison opted to return for his senior year at TCU and went 12-3 in helping the Frogs reach Omaha a second consecutive year, then was drafted in the eighth round by the Chicago Cubs.
“He didn’t get drafted, but he could have signed after his junior year,” Howard said. “I just watched what he did and how much success he had. I wanted to follow in his footsteps, have a good senior year and keep the team in a position to go back to Omaha.”
Howard will be glad if he’s drafted higher next year.
“That could be another benefit, but right now, all I really care about is trying to get us back to Omaha and winning the national championship,” he said. “This university has meant so much to me, and this baseball program is so special, that it just didn’t make sense to leave it while you could still enjoy it for another year.”