Gil LeBreton

Skoug, Frogs have heard alarms, wide awake for road ahead

Horned Frogs get boost from watching Brian Howard 'deal' vs. Texas

The TCU senior delivers eight shutout innings, resting the bullpen and helping to clinch a series victory against Texas.
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The TCU senior delivers eight shutout innings, resting the bullpen and helping to clinch a series victory against Texas.

Their usual postgame routine – a bite to eat and a rehash of the game – had to be skipped Friday night.

After all, it was already Saturday morning when the seventh-ranked TCU Horned Frogs left Lupton Stadium after outlasting the Texas Longhorns in a 4-hour, 43-minute, 11-10 slugfest.

“We usually go out and eat after a Friday night game,” said TCU’s Evan Skoug, who caught all 11 innings. “But last night I just took a protein shake, drank it and went straight home.

“Getting up this morning was a little rough. I had to set a couple of alarms.”

First pitch for Game Two of the series unmercifully came at noon Saturday. Skoug, wide-eyed and as focused as he’s been all season, set the tenor of the day by hitting his third home run of the weekend.

The Frogs added seven more runs in the third inning, and starter Brian Howard cruised to an 8-2 victory.

Howard, who allowed no runs and only one hit in eight innings, confessed that it was an emotional and highly personal day.

The first half of the season for me was rough, very frustrating. I was trying too many new things, so I just went back to basics and trusted myself.

TCU catcher Evan Skoug

This is Senior Weekend for coach Jim Schlossnagle’s eight senior players and, Howard said, “This could be my last start here of my career.”

Even after making it to Omaha three years in a row, in other words, the Frogs say they’re taking nothing for granted.

“Coming back here is never guaranteed in the postseason,” Skoug pointed out.

Even with a 34-11 record, 14-6 in Big 12 play, there is work still to be done, the Frogs are insisting.

“The first half of the season for me was rough, very frustrating,” Skoug said. “I was trying too many new things, so I just went back to basics and trusted myself.”

Despite his slow start, the junior from Illinois has his totals up to 12 homers and 42 runs batted in, both team highs.

“Sure would love to have him back next year,” Schlossnagle wished aloud after Saturday’s game.

He knows better, though. Major league teams have been steering away from drafting high school catchers. Only five of the 30 catchers selected in the first 10 rounds of last year’s draft were high schoolers.

Skoug, therefore, could well end up being the first catcher picked in June.

Brian was phenomenal – that’s the best he’s pitched all year. It’s similar to last year. He started to heat up around this time.

TCU’s Evan Skoug, speaking about pitcher Brian Howard

Typically, Skoug seemed more eager to talk about his pitcher, not himself, after the game.

“Brian was phenomenal – that’s the best he’s pitched all year,” Skoug said. “It’s similar to last year. He started to heat up around this time.”

It was almost exactly one year ago that the Frogs dropped the first two games of a road series at Baylor and realized that their season was at a crossroads. TCU won 13 of its next 14 and earned a place in the College World Series for the third year in a row.

In two games this weekend, Skoug and the Frogs have roughed up Texas starters Morgan Cooper and Nolan Kingham for a combined 14 hits and 14 runs, with neither of the star Longhorns lasting past the third inning.

Skoug credited it to good coaching and good scouting. The Frogs watch a lot of video on their upcoming opponents in the new TCU clubhouse’s video room. And thanks to the Longhorn Network, there are lots and lots of Texas games to study.

“We know how to do it,” Skoug said of the Frogs’ road that lies ahead.

“The coaches are putting us in position to get us where we need to be.”

They won’t be sleeping through any alarms, in other words. The Frogs know it’s that time.

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