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2017 TCU Baseball Preview: Most Anticipated Non-Conference Games

The #1 team in the nation will be put to the test with some major non-conference matchups, including a new-look Shriners Hospital College Classic in Houston.

TCU Baseball vs Arizona State in the Fort Worth Regional Championship game
TCU Baseball vs Arizona State in the Fort Worth Regional Championship game
Melissa Triebwasser

The preseason #1 in the nation sure is not afraid to play some of the best teams, as Schlossnagle and company have scheduled numerous teams from major conferences. On top of the usual tilts with schools such as UT Arlington, Rice, and Dallas Baptist, the Frogs will be taking on a Big Ten opponent as well as a pair of Pac-12 schools. TCU will also once again be competing in the Shriners Hospital College Classic in Houston, which appears to have its most stacked field ever. The tournament has adopted a Big 12 vs. SEC style, so the Frogs - along with Baylor and Texas Tech - will play a trio of SEC schools. Whether or not TCU stays at #1 all season is yet to be seen, but they will sure be battle-tested by the time postseason rolls around.

Penn State

2/17-2/19: Lupton Stadium

TCU will open their season by welcoming the Nittany Lions to Fort Worth in a rematch of a series from last season. The Frogs were able to sweep Penn State in State College last season, winning 6-2, 5-4, and 9-5. Brian Howard was fantastic in his appearance on the mound against them, allowing only four hits in seven innings of work. The Nittany Lions, who finished last season 28-27, lost their three top hitters in terms of batting average. Their best returning hitter, senior outfielder Nick Riotto, had a .307 batting average last year and scored three runs against TCU. Another player to keep an eye on will be sophomore Willie Burger, who leads returning players with 34 RBIs a year ago. On the mound, it will be interesting to see how well Penn State’s starters fare. All three that faced the Frogs last season did not see the 6th inning and all return this season.

Arizona State

2/24-2/26: Lupton Stadium

The Sun Devils will return to Lupton Stadium for a weekend series after participating in the Fort Worth regional last season. Arizona State made it to the Regional final against TCU, but got smoked 8-1 as Brian Howard had a dominant performance on the mound. He struck out nine batters over the course of eight innings and retired the final 17 batters he faced. Cam Warner also had a good night, driving in 3 runs with a double and a home run. Arizona State, who finished with a 36-23 record last year, returns outfielder Andrew Shaps, who last season hit .321 and drove in 27 runs. The pitcher to watch for will be senior Eder Erives, who appeared in 23 games last season and finished with a 6-2 record and 10 saves. Erives struck out 73 batters in 76.1 innings of work and had a 2.95 ERA on the year.

LSU

3/3: Minute Maid Park - Houston

In their first game down in Houston, TCU will take on the Tigers of LSU, who enter the season ranked #3 in the NCBWA poll and #2 in the Perfect Game and Collegiate Baseball rankings. The two programs last met in the 2015 College World Series, where the Frogs beat LSU twice. Last season, the Tigers were the #8 national seed in the NCAA Tournament, but were eliminated by eventual champion Coastal Carolina in the Baton Rouge Super Regional. They will have a stacked lineup yet again as Greg Deichmann, Jordan Romero, and Kramer Robertson all return. Robertson led the three with a .324 batting average and the trio combined for 137 RBIs and 22 HRs. On the mound, TCU will likely have to face either Jared Poche’ and Alex Lange. Poche’ had the lower ERA of the two, but Lange is more of a strikeout pitcher. Closer Hunter Newman, who finished last season with a 2.13 ERA and eight saves, also returns.

Texas A&M

3/4: Minute Maid Park - Houston

The Aggies put together a decent year last season, going 49-16 and earning the #4 national seed in the NCAA Tournament. They rolled through the College Station Regional and then had an opportunity to get revenge on the Frogs in the Supers for eliminating them the year before... however, this happened:

TCU eliminated the Aggies for the second year in a row in the Super Regionals by taking game three 4-1. This season, Texas A&M enters as the consensus #20 team in the rankings, but will need to replace the production of players like Boomer White (did you know he went to TCU?) and Michael Barash. Their top returning hitter is infielder Austin Homan, who had a .356 batting average last season. Another player to keep an eye on will be former Horned Frog Walker Pennington, who is a senior outfielder for the Aggies. They also return pitcher Brigham Hill, who started the first game of the Supers. Hill was 9-2 on the season with a 2.51 ERA, but surrendered seven earned runs to the Frogs in only 4.2 innings pitched.

Ole Miss

3/5: Minute Maid Park - Houston

In the third matchup of the Shriners Hospital College Classic, TCU will take on Ole Miss on Sunday. These two programs last met in Omaha in the 2014 College World Series, where the Rebels sent the Frogs home in an elimination game. Last season, Ole Miss finished 43-19 and hosted a regional in Oxford, but were eliminated after losing to both Utah and Tulane in their first two games. Unranked to begin this year, they will need to find ways to replace their top hitters from a year ago: Henri Lartigue and J.B. Woodman. Hoping to fill that void is infielder Tate Blackman, who started all 62 games last season for Ole Miss and batted .322. He was also walked 30 times and drove in 38 runs. The Rebels lost a lot from their rotation a year ago, but they do return starter James McArthur, who was 6-1 last season with a 4.26 ERA.

Cal

5/18-5/20: Evans Diamond - Berkeley

In what will be the first meeting between the two programs, TCU will travel to Berkeley to face Cal in the final series of the season. It is not often that you end your season with a non-conference series right before the Big 12 Tournament, but it could prove to be a vital series as Cal is a team full of potential. They finished last season 32-21, including a four-game sweep of Texas in Austin. They also split a series 1-1 with Texas Tech in Berkeley, with the 3rd game being cancelled due to rain. Their top returning hitter is infielder Denis Karas, who batted .319 last season and drove in 18 runs. On the mound, keep an eye on sophomore Tanner Dodson, who pitched 61.2 innings as a freshman and started nine of his 19 appearances. Dodson finished the season with a 4-5 record and a 3.36 ERA, but he also led the team with 31 walks.