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TCU Baseball vs Kansas Preview: Big 12, Big Expectations

The Frogs have a chance to get back on track at home after a tough weekend in California.

GoFrogs.com

It’s amazing how much emotion has been packed into TCU’s season so far. The anticipation and expectations of the No. 1 ranking, the frustration of early deficits in the Shriners College Classic turning over into the elation of a 10-1 record and a sweep of the SEC’s best, to... well... let’s say the road trip to California and leave it at that. So after all that, we’re finally to the point in the schedule where we play the games that “matter”.

Last year the Frogs entered Big 12 play as a young team still searching to find its identity, and they found what they were looking for when they caught fire in the Big 12 Tournament. That flash of potential fueled their magical run through the postseason. This year’s team, while loaded with veterans in the lineup, is actually pretty young on the pitching side. Both the freshman and veterans have now had their share of struggles.

The Frogs started the year No. 1. That’s who they were, and maybe, hopefully, that’s who they’ll be again. But that was a month an a half ago, and that’s not them anymore. Now its time for them to dig deep and discover for themselves who they really are, without the pressure of hearing from so many who they are supposed to be. So, as Big 12 play begins this year, it’s once again an opportunity for self discovery.

Kansas comes to Lupton with an 8-8 record. Their early season struggles included a sweep by No. 12 Stanford on the road, a tournament loss to No. 14 Virginia, and a loss at home to Oral Roberts. Since then they’re 6-2 in their last eight games played. That run of success was capped nicely on Wednesday with a win against that same Oral Roberts team on the road in Tulsa. Friday night will be the 19th meeting between TCU and Kansas, with the Frogs holding an 11-7 series advantage.

Probable Starters
Friday: Nick Lodolo, Fr. - LHP vs. Sean Rackoski, RS Jr. - RHP
Saturday: Jared Janczak, RS So. - RHP vs. Taylor Turski, Jr. - LHP
Sunday: Brian Howard, Sr. - RHP vs. Jackson Goddard, So. - RHP

Sean Rackoski is 2-2 this year with a 3.66 ERA. He’s gone at least five innings in three of those starts, including his last one in which he allowed just two runs on two hits. He’s only allowed more than two earned runs in one of those starts too, against No. 12 Stanford.

Lodolo gave up four runs in the first inning of his last start against UC Irvine to add to his 6.32 ERA, but settled in to hold the Anteaters hitless over the next four innings. Lodolo has pitched pretty well for TCU so far this year, but fans are still waiting to see that “absolute stud” level performance. He’s a freshman and that’s unfair because he’s pitched well, but fans are unreasonable and that’s the way it is.

Taylor Turski has the most innings pitched out of anyone on the Jayhawk’s roster. He’s 1-1 on the year with a 2.74 ERA. He’s gone for six in three of his four starts this season. In his last start against Houston Baptist he pitched five scoreless innings to earn his first win of the season.

Janczak’s 4-0 record has him tied for the most wins nationally and he has the best ERA of TCU’s starting rotation at 2.73. He was also the only TCU pitcher to record a win last week when he went six innings, allowing just two runs on two hits against UC Irvine. He’s been TCU’s most consistent pitcher to this point, and it looks like he really perfected his craft during his time pitching in the Cape Cod League this summer.

Jackson Goddard is 2-0 this year with a 3.71 ERA. This will be the second game he has started this season and he’s made four starts out of the bullpen. Last week, in his first start against Houston Baptist, he pitched seven innings, shutting out the Huskies and allowing just four hits.

Brian Howard is 2-2 on the season and has struggled in the first inning in each of his last two starts. He gave up four runs in the first inning two weeks ago against LSU and eight in the first last week against UC Irvine. He did have an encouraging inning of work on Tuesday against Long Beach State. He went three-up-three-down with a strikeout and needed only nine pitches. Hopefully that trend continues and he gets back on track this Sunday.

Offensive Preview

Kansas is one of only two teams in the Big 12 hitting for a worse average than TCU right now. As a team they’re hitting .250, and Matt McLaughlin, with a .365 average, is the only player in their lineup hitting over .300. Jaxx Groshans leads the Jayhawks in RBIs with 10 and Rudy Karre is leading the way in runs with 13. As a team they’re averaging 4.6 runs per game.

TCU’s offense is still led by Nolan Brown with a .367 average and eight stolen bases on nine attempts for the year. Luken Baker’s average has fallen to .333 after a relatively quiet week for him, but he still leads the team with a .627 slugging percentage and 23 runs scored. Josh Watson is on an 11 game hitting streak right now, and has bumped his average up to third on the team at .283. As a team the Frogs are averaging 7.4 runs per game.

The games are scheduled for 6:30pm on Friday, 5:00pm on Saturday and 1:00pm on Sunday. All times are CST and the Saturday and Sunday games will be televised on Fox Sports Southwest.