Gil LeBreton

TCU baseball shows off its sleek, new lineup

Nolan Brown steals second base Saturday, showing one way the Frogs have been able to avoid the sacrifice bunt this season.
Nolan Brown steals second base Saturday, showing one way the Frogs have been able to avoid the sacrifice bunt this season. Star-Telegram

For much of America, Saturday was an introduction.

The last time that a TCU baseball team appeared on national television, the Horned Frogs were futilely scavenging for 2014 College World Series runs.

They scored only two in a 15-inning loss to Virginia. They managed only four in an elimination defeat at the hands of Ole Miss.

But new season, new ball, new TCU offense.

The Frogs laid an 18-hit pounding on Texas A&M on Saturday, winning Game 1 of their Super Regional 13-4.

Every batter in the TCU starting lineup got at least one hit, and the Frogs had runners in scoring position in every inning but one.

TCU jumped on A&M ace Grayson Long — previously 9-0 for the season — for seven hits in the first three innings, and then tacked on five more runs against the Aggies’ best reliever, Andrew Vinson.

The midgame turnaround, when A&M coach Rob Childress went to Vinson and TCU’s Jim Schlossnagle brought in Trey Teakell, rendered The Great Aggie Ticket Scam moot.

The so-called “secret” ticket code was “TCU15.” But by the time TCU had 13 — 13 runs and counting — the outfield berm areas had been thinned of Aggies.

Teakell played a huge hand in that. He quieted what had been a free-swinging playoff game with four innings of one-hit, no-run relief.

The Frogs then blew it open during Vinson’s second time through the TCU batting order.

Leading 6-4, Garrett Crain led off the bottom of the sixth with a single, bringing up the No. 9 hitter, left fielder Dane Steinhagen.

The old Schlossnagle, circa 2012-13, would have bunted Crain over. Runs were like unicorns in those days.

After the game, Schlossnagle credited hitting coach Bill Mosiello and tried to explain the team’s new-wave scoring philosophy.

“We don’t bunt very much,” Schlossnagle said. “We may have like 23 sacrifice hits, but I think we’ve only squared to bunt twice the whole season.

“There are just other things we can do. We’ve got over 115 stolen bases now. We’ll hit and run. We just would rather not give up outs.”

Disdaining the sacrifice in Saturday’s sixth inning, therefore, Steinhagen hit away and singled, bringing up the top of the batting order. Four of the following five TCU hitters also reached base, and suddenly the TCU lead had ballooned to 11-4.

Childress defended his decision to bring in Vinson.

“He’s another one who is a big reason why we’re here today,” he said. “TCU hitters did a pretty good job against him. He gave us a little bit of a hold.

“But when there’s eight innings pitched and only two zeroes, you’re chasing runs all day long.”

Childress could be second-guessed, perhaps, for not bringing in a lefty in the fourth inning to match up with TCU’s predominately left-handed-hitting lineup. North Carolina State did it last weekend with some success.

“That’s what we’ve seen all year,” Schlossnagle said. “Everybody throws their lefties. We’ve seen that all year.”

A look at the TCU batting splits, however, suggests that several of the lefty-hitting Frogs have had no problems against southpaws this season.

New season, new ball, new TCU offense.

Walks and steals, along with hit-and-run singles and line drives to the gaps can work against anybody, the 2015 Frogs have shown.

Consider Saturday the introduction.

Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697

Twitter: @gilebreton

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