Gil LeBreton

TCU’s pitching depth is what has Horned Frogs dreaming big

Preston Morrison pitching seven innings against LSU will help TCU use its pitching depth during the rest of the CWS.
Preston Morrison pitching seven innings against LSU will help TCU use its pitching depth during the rest of the CWS. Star-Telegram

As a newspaper headline lamented here before the start of the College World Series, there is no Cinderella this time around.

Eight teams, all with worthy RPI and conference credentials. Eight teams, all with well-stocked baseball trophy cases.

Eight teams, all with players recently selected in the Major League Baseball draft.

And of those eight teams, who had the most pitchers taken in the draft?

TCU and Florida, both with six.

There may be better individual pitchers at this College World Series. Vanderbilt’s Carson Fulmer certainly has a neon résumé.

Virginia sophomore Connor Jones stepped up when ace Nathan Kirby went down with an injury, and the Cavaliers haven’t missed a beat.

But when coach Jim Schlossnagle talks about his TCU Horned Frogs being “built for this tournament,” he’s talking about the depth of his pitching staff, more than anything else.

His three trips with TCU to Omaha haven’t taught Schlossnagle any shortcuts, he said.

“No, we’ve always just tried to sign the best pitchers we can,” Schlossnagle said Monday, “and we’ve been fortunate to have had good pitching.

“The depth of this staff, though, especially considering we’re a private school, is unique.”

The figure most often tossed around is $55,000. That’s the approximate cost of attendance for a student at private TCU.

It means that a baseball coach, like Schlossnagle, has to spread his NCAA-allowed 11.7 scholarships amongst his roster, or help find some other way for the players’ families to afford the $55,000 in annual tuition, fees, room and board.

Senior Preston Morrison, Sunday’s winning pitcher, was able to qualify for academic-based aid. Relief pitcher Trey Teakell gets a tuition break because his dad works for the campus police force.

“In every college baseball program, because we’re under-scholarshipped, you have those stories,” Schlossnagle said. “But at a private school, it’s really important.

“The two things that put the most pressure on your recruiting coordinator are, one, you can’t make mistakes on your scholarship money and, two, you have to find ways to get good players who, at some point in their college careers, can help you outside of baseball scholarship money.”

Starting shortstop Keaton Jones is another, like Morrison, who began his TCU career as a walk-on.

The roots of the current Horned Frogs pitching staff were laid three years ago by a coach who was also at this College World Series. Tony Vitello works for Arkansas now, but he was Schlossnagle’s chief recruiter when five standouts pitchers were signed by TCU.

Riley Ferrell, Alex Young and Mitchell Traver came to campus with the 2012 class. Two others didn’t, including Rockwall’s Jake Thompson, a second-rounder who ended up signing with Detroit (before coming to Texas in the Joakim Soria trade).

That’s right. The Frogs’ staff this year could have had Thompson, Morris, Young, Traver, Tyler Alexander, Teakell and Ferrell.

Morrison is a senior, while Young and Alexander were both selected in this year’s second round and will almost certainly sign. Traver, however, picked by the Cardinals in Round 28, is expected to return and will be one of the leaders on next year’s TCU staff.

With Morrison pitching seven innings Sunday against LSU, Schlossnagle has most of his deep staff ready to go for the rest of the tournament.

That depth is what got the Frogs to Omaha. It’s what makes them believe they can win it all.

Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697

Twitter: @gilebreton

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