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Monday Manager, April 11th: Horton and Warner thrive in a needed Big 12 series win

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The Friday night struggles continue, but the Frogs nevertheless get a key Big 12 series win thanks to Dalton Horton and Cam Warner. And now, there's a clear two-team race in the conference...RAIDERS v FROGS

With a team this young, grinding out 24-7 is pretty incredible. At this point, it may take a little more than the Frogs simply just winning series; if they want to catch up to the conference's first place team, Texas Tech, they'll not only have to win the series, they might have to sweep as well. Of course, at just over the season's halfway point, this may be a little presumptuous to think Tech has a stranglehold on TCU.

| Wisdom's a gift, but would you trade it for youth? |

The Kansas series was yet another sign that this team can come out of nowhere at any second. The eight-run 5th inning the Frogs got Sunday that fueled their 14-6 win is standard at this point. Sure, as of late, the Frogs have had trouble with the bases loaded, but basic laws of statistics will tell you that as much as TCU's been loading the bases and getting no return, they will eventually capitalize and capitalize big.

If Cam Warner isn't one of your favorite players, I don't know what you're doing with yourself. Warner, who extended his hitting streak to 20 games on Sunday, has sort of been a quiet hitter. He doesn't have the average that Elliott Barzilli does nor the mammoth-like presence of Luken Baker, or even the sporadic big-hit ability that Josh Watson has–he's just a dependable hitter and the embodiment of a new-age second baseman.

Speaking of Elliott Barzilli, he shows no signs of slowing down at college baseball's midway point. Barz still ranks in the top 10 (6), 3rd amongst power 5 players, in BA (.452).

Still, Barzilli aside, it's the youth that are leading this team. It's strange to think that even sophomores, Connor Wanhanen and Evan Skoug seem like grandpas. What's even more amazing is that this team is off to one of the best starts in school history without a true ace. Mitchell Traver still doesn't have a definite date for his return and the ever-dependable Brian Howard has gone the way of the milk carton without much explanation. (It was announced Monday that Schloss rested Howard because he had soreness in his arm Thursday and Friday).

Despite the prolonged absence of at least one of their big righties, the youth– to say it again–are pulling their weight. Luken Baker is still a star on the mound and getting a chance to go back to Fort Worth after three weeks removed, a place where he's shown to be brilliant, will benefit him and the team greatly. Sean Wymer has also been outstanding thus far. Despite his rocky Sunday, Wymer (1-0, 1.64 ERA) has proven, at least to me, that he's ready to pitch in big-time situations and have a say for being a Sunday or Tuesday starter. Drew Gooch (.72 ERA) has been fantastic in relief as well.

Actual GIF from Cam Warner this weekend.

But perhaps no one's been as pleasant of a surprise as Dalton Horton. The much-needed lefty in TCU's weekend arsenal is now 5-0 with a 2.08 ERA. We said last week that The Dalton Horton Experiment paid off and it did again on Saturday. Aside from Howard, whose presence going forward is ambiguous–though I wouldn't say Frog fans should worry–what makes Horton such a valuable asset is that you get a lot of innings out of him. The Baker/Janczak 1-2 was brilliant again Friday despite the loss, the nine strikeouts and three walks in over seven innings of work between them will make this Friday slot a really nuanced and difficult matchup for Big 12 teams going forward. But then you get a guy like Horton, pitched six innings last week in his weekend debut against Wichita State before Schloss and Saarloos went Wymer-Guillroy-Feltman for the last three innings–which now, in retrospect, was probably keeping Wymer loose knowing that he'd be needed in a starting capacity at some point this season. So with Howard's soreness late in the week, it was a no-brainer to throw in a confident Wymer. That said, the experimentation and tinkering with this starting rotation and bullpen is far from over. What remains is that (a) Horton comfortably has a weekend spot and (b) he's going to be throwing over seven innings more often now that Wymer no longer has to "try out," so to speak.

What we're trying to get at is that the pitching is starting to regain its footing. Not that it ever really lost it, but the Rex Hill drama, Baker not being superhuman on the road, and the vanishing of Howard, and still, the Schlossnagle-Saarloos response and ability to get creative and get results out of this creativity gives a very positive outlook for the rest of the season. Especially when an offense shows no signs of slowing down.


ERA: 2.96
WHIP: 1.18
Strikeout to Walk Ratio: 3.02
Shutouts: 6

Big 12 Rank

1

1

1

1

National Rank

14

20

13

4

The creativity has not only paid off in getting wins, TCU's pitching is back to being on top in the conference. The Frogs currently rank first in ERA (2.96), Hits (233), Walks (88), Strikeouts (260), Shutouts (6), BB/9 (2.86), and K/9 (8.63). Though this seems ho-hum, or at least standard for a team that's ranked in the top 5, or just simply the top, in the categories nationally, they're not digressing.

| The Foil Rises |

In any other year, Texas Tech would've been the perfect yin to foil TCU's yang: a flashy offense versus a mechanically-sound pitching staff. Despite the Frog staff not being as polished as it has been the past two seasons, the Big 12 baseball frontrunners now feel like two heavyweight fighters going at it rather than just opposite forces trying to pull away from each other. The runs and offensive numbers both teams have put up will subside a bit when they play each other at the end of April, but the crushing weight of the Big 12 title will be on full display.

Team
Runs Scored
Runs Allowed
Differential

TCU

258

105

+154

Texas Tech

244

156

+88

Oklahoma State

164

112

+52

Oklahoma

161

137

+24

Texas

154

131

+23

Baylor

175

163

+12

West Virginia

145

141

+4

Kansas State

200

198

+2

Kansas

152

182

-30

The Red Raiders, who've been lurking in the desert shadows of Lubbock, made a huge statement in their sweep–no, annihilation – of an Oklahoma State squad who many thought could win this thing even as far ago as last weekend. Are the Cowboys still in this race? Sure. Is Texas in this race? Sure–and they have the series win over TCU to prove it. But right now, it's a two-team race and Tech's 11-1 conference record is a statement that they may be the team to beat.

Texas Tech is also inching at TCU's Top-10 spot in the D1Baseball Rankings and are 10 RPI spots higher than the Frogs right now. Again, we're just barely at the halfway point, but I wouldn't be surprised if this race goes down to the wire. Neither of these teams have a bad conference loss; Tech's lone defeat was a 4-3 loss in Waco; and two of TCU's three conference losses were a result of errors. The late April series is obviously looming,and it bodes well for TCU, who, despite just one less win at home than on the road, seems to find an energy at home–an energy that will be much needed when Tech blows into Funkytown.