They call it the Freebie War, and in Friday night’s season opener, the TCU Horned Frogs gave things away with uncharacteristic generosity.
Fielding miscues. Six stolen bases. A bunt to nowhere.
As TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle explained, “It’s things like throwing to the wrong base, errors, walks, stolen bases, a wild pitch, a passed ball.
“It’s how many free bases do you give up, and how many free bases do you gain?”
In losing to the Loyola Marymount Lions 5-3 on Friday, the Frogs only vaguely resembled the preseason Big 12 favorite and the No. 11-ranked team in the country.
For the first time in “three or four years,” Schlossnagle noted, a TCU baseball team lost a game’s Freebie War by double digits.
But so went Friday.
“The difference today was the extra bases,” Schlossnagle said Saturday. “And what won the game? Connor Wanhanen stole second, and Cam Warner got the base hit to bring home the run.”
The Frogs made that lone third-inning run stand tall all afternoon.
Six strong innings by starting pitcher Brian Howard and shut-down relief work by Preston Guillory and Brian Trieglaff preserved the 1-0 victory.
Schlossnagle had nothing but praise for the old men of his youth-laden pitching staff.
Guillory inherited a one-out, two-on potential mess in the seventh inning and worked out of it without a ball leaving the infield. Trieglaff finished it off by retiring the Lions in order in the ninth.
“What you saw was the little bit of experience we have on the pitching staff, and it showed itself today,” Schlossnagle said.
The finale of the three-game series is set for 11:30 a.m. Sunday.
All things considered, Friday night freebies included, winning the series would represent a solid first step for the Frogs.
Don’t be greedy. Visiting Loyola has caught and pitched the baseball well for two games.
You could smugly argue that this was bad scheduling. Teams who need to pad their NCAA résumé routinely schedule the likes of Ivy League and Big Ten opponents — teams who’ve had to practice indoors — to open the season.
Loyola Marymount, on the other hand, with its LA campus just a few miles from the ocean, arrived with stout pitching, slick fielding and a full California tan.
“This is a really good team,” Schlossnagle said of the visitors. “They had a good team last year, but I think this club is better.”
Schlossnagle likes the idea of his team being immediately tested.
“I think when you play bad people, you may get some false confidence,” he said. “This right here, you learn something about your team.”
A split of the first two games, granted, is not as rankings-friendly as a sweep. But Schlossnagle praised the pitching Saturday and likes the way his lineup has hit.
TCU has outhit Loyola 20-10 in the two games.
“Our at-bats have been outstanding,” Schlossnagle said. “When the south wind gets going in this park, what people don’t understand is it doesn’t just take away the home runs, it also allows the outfielders to play so shallow it takes away the sinking liners.
“Dane Steinhagen — how many balls does he have to hit hard? And it’s against good pitching.”
Nobody Saturday seemed to be in the mood for giving away anything, as the 1-0 score suggested.
Schlossnagle wasn’t complaining. For his team, with its high aspirations, the Lions have been a solid season-opening test.