Gil LeBreton

Sun still shines on TCU bats … and ‘Gary’

TCU's Cody Jones celebrates after scoring on a single by Connor Wanhanen in the fourth inning against LSU at the College World Series on Sunday.
TCU's Cody Jones celebrates after scoring on a single by Connor Wanhanen in the fourth inning against LSU at the College World Series on Sunday. AP

There were no losers’ bracket clouds hovering over the TCU Horned Frogs’ baseball practice Wednesday afternoon.

The sun beamed down brightly on their field at Bellevue East High School. Batting practice reminded onlookers that the Big 12 champions still know how to swing the bats.

Associate coach Bill Mosiello even growled at my question about Tuesday night’s hitting funk, which saw the Frogs shut out for the first time this season.

“I’m not panicking,” Mosiello assured. “It’s hard to score 10 runs every game. You had a left-handed pitcher [Vanderbilt’s Philip Pfeifer] who was drafted in the first few rounds. They’re throwing 90, 94 [mph] and a lefty — those guys have gotten guys out in baseball for about 100 years.”

Five days into the College World Series, there isn’t a team here that’s proven to be immune to the stellar pitching.

Even the Florida Gators, who erupted again Wednesday against Miami, were shut down for one night by Virginia.

Though his team was held to five singles by Pfeifer and reliever Kyle Wright, TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said there was no reason to circle the hitting wagons.

“It doesn’t have as much to do with our offense as how well they pitched,” Schlossnagle said. “Both those guys, including Wright, the freshman right-hander that came in, were making great pitches.

“Again, you don’t hit the pitcher’s good pitches, as we saw with Alex [Young] last night. You hit the pitcher’s bad pitches.”

When Schlossnagle and his staff reviewed the tape of the game, they felt the Frogs had better swings than the Commodores for most of the night.

No need to change anything, in other words, Mosiello said.

“Absolutely not,” he said. “There’s zero panic. It was just a tough day.

“Just like our guy manhandled their guys. They had one lucky swing. We swung the bats a lot better than Vanderbilt yesterday and hit a lot more balls hard.

“We’ve just got to come out tomorrow and get some hits.”

TCU failed to bounce back at last year’s College World Series, after laboring through a mostly scoreless, 15-inning, second-game loss to Virginia.

The mood Wednesday, however, was noticeably different.

A lively practice was followed by a brief autograph session with several local youth teams in attendance.

“It’s what we needed,” Schlossnagle. “I wish we could play today.

“Part of the beauty of this tournament is you get days off. But when you lose, you want to get back out on the field.”

Senior center fielder Cody Jones agreed.

“That game is in the past,” he said. “We’re on to the next day. We’re thinking about LSU.”

Jones was even relaxed enough to talk about his special friend … Gary.

In the movie Cast Away, Tom Hanks had Wilson, his volleyball companion. Jones has Gary, the rubber-like thumb guard made by Prohitter that he holds onto — sometimes tossing it into the air between pitches — while in in the outfield.

He’s been calling the thumb guard “Gary” since an ESPN reporter inquired about it.

“The ESPN announcer asked me what its name was,” Jones said. “I looked up and saw Garrett [Crain] and was like, ‘Uh, Gary.’

“The announcer said he heard I slept with it.”

That’s not true, Cody corrected. But it does sometimes become hard to find after he tosses it down to make a play.

“Especially on a turf field,” Jones said, “where the glare is really bad from the sun.

“I did actually lose it one time and had to go back to the dugout without it. That really stressed me out.”

Just like Tom Hanks and the volleyball.

“That’s it,” Jones said. “I’m going to draw a face and glue some grass on it as hair.

“It’ll be Rally Gary.”

No, there were no hitting hangovers for TCU on Wednesday.

The sun shined. Even on … Gary.

Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697

Twitter: @gilebreton

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