Gil LeBreton

This time Frogs follow Game 1 script

Jeremie Fagnan, left, crosses home plate as TCU takes a 3-0 lead Friday against catcher Cody Doyle and Sacred Heart.
Jeremie Fagnan, left, crosses home plate as TCU takes a 3-0 lead Friday against catcher Cody Doyle and Sacred Heart. Special to the Star-Telegram

They followed the script perfectly Friday, as a veteran-laden, postseason-hardened team should.

The TCU Horned Frogs won their NCAA baseball tournament opener.

They did it while using a minimum of pitching arms.

And they saved head coach Jim Schlossnagle from a night of regional-round fret and worry.

Only one year ago, the College World Series-bound Frogs first had to go 11 innings to subdue a 27-33 Siena team. In 2012, TCU lost its first game of the regional to Ole Miss.

This time, finally, the Frogs followed the printed instructions. Center fielder Cody Jones homered to lead off the bottom of the first inning, and TCU starter Mitchell Traver took it from there.

The 10-0 victory over Sacred Heart was the most decisive tourney-opening performance for TCU since beating Lamar 16-3 five years ago.

But that’s why a team battles and claws all season to earn one of the regional round’s 16 No. 1 seeds.

The Pioneers, tournament champions of the Northeast Conference, came in with 23-30-1 record.

“We tried not to think about that,” said Traver, who pitched seven innings of masterful four-hit, shut-out ball. “The way we look at it is that these are the top 64 teams in the country. It doesn’t matter what seed a team is. We didn’t even look at that.”

Brian Trieglaff spelled Traver for the final two innings, leaving Schlossnagle with ace Preston Morrison and a mostly fresh bullpen to throw against North Carolina State.

Traver, who stands 6-foot-7, struck out seven in what he called “the biggest start of my career.”

Coach Nick Giaquinto of Sacred Heart was impressed.

“The height, the speed, the movement — it all played a big part,” Giaquinto said. “That downward plane. He was able to get a bunch of ground balls.”

While the Pioneers were struggling to find scoring chances off Traver, the TCU lineup kept pecking away at Sacred Heart starter James Cooksey, as well as the three relievers that followed him.

Every batter in the TCU starting lineup reached base at least once.

“They battled at the plate,” Giaquinto said, “and they had a lot of quality at-bats. They did not chase many pitches out of the zone, either.

“You can tell why they’re one of the best teams in the country — just quality at-bat after quality at-bat. And they run.

“They’re just a really solid team.”

The Frogs are 3-1 in second-day regional games at Lupton Stadium. Last year’s winner’s bracket second game was the memorable 22-inning marathon, won by TCU over Sam Houston State sometime after 2 a.m.

Which is probably why Schlossnagle was tapping the brakes after Friday night’s easy victory.

“Life is going to change tomorrow,” he said. “We’re facing a really, really good team and a really, really good left-handed pitcher.”

From Jones’ lead-off homer, however, until the final out, Schlossnagle knows that his team’s tournament opener couldn‘t have gone any better.

He also knows that Saturday, he gets to start Morrison, 11-2 on the season.

“Best pitcher in the history of the school,” Schlossnagle said. “He’s pitched a lot of big games for us before. How can you not like that?

“I can lay my head on the pillow tonight and worry about a lot of things, but my starting pitcher for tomorrow is not one of them.”

Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697

Twitter: @gilebreton

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