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TCU Baseball: Loyola Marymount Preview and Open Thread.

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Guess what? It's OPENING WEEKEND. Not at Lupton? Or simply want to stop by before, after, or in between games? You're in the right place. Come talk baseball with us.

Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

The Frogs kick off the 2016 tonight at Lupton. While Mitchell Traver was supposed to get the start, it will instead go to LHP and transfer, Rex Hill. While the offense gets a complete makeover–especially with Nolan Brown out this week with a hand injury–adding Gatorade National Player of the Year, Luken Baker and Arlington Martin standout, Josh Watson should provide some spark this weekend. Not to mention, two of the Frogs' best hitter from 2015, Connor Wanhanen and fan-favorite, Evan Skoug return as well.

Offensive Need-to-Knows:

Here's Friday's lineup.

Pitching Matchups:

Friday:

Hill versus Busfield should be interesting. Busfield is the Tigers' best pitcher. What Rex Hill can do at this level remains to be seen. We discussed the benefits of throwing a lefty on Friday nights in this week's podcast, so I can't argue with the decision. Hill doesn't have the speed that the Frog starters on Friday have had the last several years, but he can still hit the high-80s, and low-90s. Still, with the offense I expect TCU to have, plus an entire offseason working with Kirk Sarloos, I'll give Hill the benefit here. Despite a good showing by ULM, I think TCU and Hill get a big, opening win.

Prediction: Hill


W-L

ERA

K/9

BB/9

Rex Hill

3-2

4.72

9.11

4.72

JD Busfield

4-2

1.89

8.29

3.86

Saturday:

This is probably the easiest pick, at least from a straight matchup standpoint, of the weekend. Despite Abbott's strong numbers, it's hard to argue having the experience of Brian Howard–especially for a Saturday game.

Prediction: Howard


W-L

ERA

K/9

BB/9

Brian Howard

4-0

3.52

9.00

2.74

Cory Abbott

1-1

2.37

5.84

1.82

Sunday:

Luken Baker has to be the most exciting debut in TCU baseball history; and arguably in its entire sports history. Never has a player, regardless of sport, with this much prestige, or at least pre-college hype, arrived in Fort Worth.

Despite a mid-90s fastball, I fully expect the RHP Baker to be human. He'll have jitters since this will be his first appearance on the mound. However, he'll be able to get most of the early jitters out during the first two games, because he's also a top-notch offensive threat.

I also fully expect this kid to have some sort of cult following by midseason.

Prediction: Baker


W-L

ERA

K/9

BB/9

Luken Baker

NA

NA

NA

NA

Tyler Cohen

0-0

7.66

9.49

3.65


HOME NOTABLES:
Noteables (via GoFrogs.com):

TCU NOTABLES:
• TCU was picked to win the Big 12, receiving three first place votes and finishing just two points ahead of Oklahoma State.
• TCU enters the season ranked in the top 20 of all the major polls. The Horned Frogs are as high as No. 11 and as low as No. 19.
• Over the last two seasons, TCU has produced the NCAA's lowest combined ERA of 2.33.
• TCU has allowed two or fewer runs in 70 of the last 132 games played dating back to the start of 2014.
• TCU is one of just eight teams with over 200 combined stolen bases since the start of the 2014 campaign.
• TCU welcomed 18 newcomers in the fall. The group features 13 freshmen and five juniors.
• Head coach Jim Schlossnagle needs two victories to become TCU's all-time winningest coach, surpassing Lance Brown's total of 516 set between 1986-2003.
• Mitchell Traver has been named a preseason All-American by various outlets.
• Connor Wanhanen enters the season carrying a seven-game hitting streak.

LOYOLA MARYMOUNT NOTABLES:
• Loyola Marymount was picked to finish second in the West Coast Conference.
• The Lions return 19 letterwinners, including five starters from last season's squad.
• LMU welcomed 15 newcomers in the fall.
• Junior pitcher JD Busfield is a preseason All-American. He led the team with 14 saves in 27 appearances.
• Sophomore Sean Watkins tied for the team lead with six home runs in 2015. Watkins was a two-way player, making 17 appearances out of the bullpen with nine starts.

SERIES HISTORY:
• Loyola Marymount and TCU are playing each other for the second straight season.
• TCU holds a 1-0 record in the series.
• The Frogs and the Lions met in a midweek contest in Los Angeles in 2015 with the Horned Frogs winning 6-2 on March 10.

• TCU will play 30 home games during the 2016 regular season.
• Since it opened in 2003, TCU has an all-time record of 310-104 (.749) at Lupton Stadium, tallying at least 20 wins in 11 of 13 seasons.
• Under the guidance of Jim Schlossnagle, TCU is 289-95 in games played at Lupton Stadium.
• TCU is 60-12 at Lupton Stadium over the last two seasons, including a school-record 33 wins in 2015.
• TCU was tops among private schools and ranked 10th nationally in average attendance in 2015.

SEASON OPENER NOTES:
• TCU will open its 14th season at Lupton Stadium.
• The Horned Frogs are 8-5 in home openers since the stadium opened up in 2003.
• The 2016 season also marks the 13th year under the tenure of head coach Jim Schlossnagle. • TCU is 8-4 in season-openers under his guidance.
• TCU is opening at home for the third straight season and the ninth time since Schlossnagle took over the program.

AMONG THE BEST IN TEXAS:
Since taking over the program in 2004, head coach Jim Schlossnagle has done nothing but win. In 12 years under his guidance, the Horned Frogs are 516-236. TCU has posted nine seasons with at least 40 wins and has appeared in 11 NCAA Regionals.

The 516 wins rank third among Division I programs in the state of Texas as does the .686 winnings percentage.

ELITE COMPANY:
Since missing the postseason in 2013, TCU has rebounded nicely with back-to-back appearances in the College World Series. TCU was one of just three schools (Vanderbilt, Virginia) to repeat as participants. 2015 marked the third appearance in the last six years, making TCU one of just seven schools to have accomplished that feat.

Only 13 schools in the NCAA have been in the postseason in at least 11 of the last 12 seasons. Additionally, TCU is one of just nine schools to host at least five regionals in the last seven years.

HOME SWEET HOME:
The Frogs have enjoyed the home cooking of Lupton Stadium since it opened in 2003. TCU has an all-time record of 310-104 (.749) at Lupton Stadium, tallying at least 20 wins in 11 of 13 seasons.

In 2015, the Frogs posted a nation's best 33-4 (.892) record in 37 home games. The 33 wins at home are a stadium record, topping the previous mark of 28 tallied in 2008. As a team, TCU outscored its opponents 248-94. The Frogs posted a .305 batting average and tallied 18 home runs.

On the mound, the pitching staff enjoyed the friendly confines to the tune of a 1.69 ERA with six shutouts. The staff fanned 338 batters and held opponents to a .195 batting average against.

USHERING IN A NEW ERA:
TCU bid adieu to five everyday senior starters at the end of the 2015 campaign. Gone is 51 percent of the total hits and RBIs from last season.

All is not lost as the lineup returns four everyday players in Connor Wanhanen (.329, 1 HR, 40 RBI), Nolan Brown (.302, 1 HR, 30 RBI),Dane Steinhagen (.289, 28 RBI) and Evan Skoug (.285, 7 HR, 46 RBI), along with utility player Elliott Barzilli (.250, 2 HR, 12 RBI). The quintet combined to hit .296 with 156 RBIs.

The incoming class featured eight talented players that should fill in nicely for the departed. Five of the eight are freshman, while the other three are juniors.

SPEED FACTOR:
For the first time since the 1996 season, the Horned Frogs surpassed the 100 stolen base mark, totaling 119 in 2015, a mark that ranked fifth in the nation. It was just the fifth time in program history, the Horned Frogs have reached triple digits in stolen bases.

Over the last two seasons, TCU has been one of the most prolifc base-stealing teams. The Horned Frogs are one of just eight teams to have stolen over 200 bases over the last two years. The 211 stolen bases ranks fifth in the nation.

MOUND PRESENCE:
Many question marks await the team on the mound as TCU will have to replace 67 percent of its innings and 63 percent of its wins from 2015.

Headlining the group of returners is preseason All-American Mitchell Traver who logged 76 innings in 2015. Collectively, the group of seven returners posted a 19-2 record with a 2.42 ERA.

The fall saw the influx of 11 pitchers on the roster. The group features two junior college transfers and nine freshmen.

STINGY STAFF:
Over the last two seasons, no team in the NCAA has produced a better ERA than TCU. The Frogs ranked No. 1 in 2014 with a 2.22 ERA and No. 2 in 2015 with a 2.45 ERA for a combined 2.33 ERA. TCU's 24 shutouts over the last two years are also tops in the NCAA.

TCU has limited opponents to two or fewer runs 79 times over the last 132 games played. The staff has surrendered five or more runs just 33 times.

RECORD BREAKING:
Each of the last two seasons have seen the Horned Frogs set a school record fielding percentage. In 2015, the Frogs set the standard with a .979 fielding percentage, ranking eighth in the NCAA.

Over the last two seasons, the Frogs have produced a combined .978 fielding percentage. The Frogs have one or fewer errors in 102 of their last 132 games played.