What a difference a week can make. After a weekend series sweep of Oklahoma State and a mid-week series sweep of UT Rio Grand Valley the Frogs are on a five game win streak. The recent success has pushed the team’s record to 19-5 (5-1 in Big 12) and the Frog’s batting average has risen from around .250 to .266. Now TCU will travel to Manhattan, Kansas seeking their first Big 12 road series win against the Wildcats since they joined the conference.
TCU leads the overall series against KSU 13-7, but neither team has won a road series against the other as conference foes. Maybe that’s due to the fact that the teams are 7 1⁄2 hours away by car, the furthest opponent TCU faces other than West Virginia. TCU’s last, long road trip wasn't good, so this weekend gives them a chance to show they can win on the road, and to keep themselves positioned near the top of the Big 12 standings.
Kansas State is 15-10 on the season, but joins Oklahoma State as the only Big 12 team with an 0-3 record. After starting out their season 15-6, the Wildcats are in the middle of a four-game skid which included being swept by Texas in Austin last weekend. Most recently they suffered an 11-1 defeat at the hands of Nebraska. Their RPI is just north of 100, but they are 9-4 at home and their lone road win was a 6-5 victory over No. 6 South Carolina.
Friday: Jared Janczak vs Justin Heskett
Saturday: Nick Lodolo vs Parker Rigler
Sunday: Brian Howard vs Brogan Heinen
Last week, for the first time this season, Janczak did not earn a win in his start. In five innings he gave up three runs on four hits with two walks, five strikeouts, and two wild pitches. TCU still won the game, but it was a natural step backwards from Janczak’s near no-hitter the week before. On the year he’s 5-0 with a 2.52 ERA. Justin Heskett is a junior right-hander with a 2.90 ERA and a 2-2 record on the year. Last week against UT he lasted just 3 1⁄3 innings giving up two runs on five hits while walking four batters.
Nick Lodolo took another big step forward in his maturation last weekend, as he held Oklahoma State to just two hits through his first five innings of work. The freshman lefty would leave the mound with no outs in the sixth after running into some trouble, but ended up surrendering just three earned runs while striking out six. He’s 2-1 on the year with a 5.13 ERA.
Parker Rigler, the senior left-hander from Oklahoma, has an ERA of 2.34 and is 2-2 on the year. He threw a no-hitter earlier this year in the Wildcats’ in over Eastern Illinois, but struggled in his start against Texas last week going just 3 2⁄3 innings and giving up three runs on five hits while walking six.
Brian Howard turned in one of his best starts of the season last weekend against Oklahoma State. He scattered three hits over seven innings pitched and allowed just one run while walking three and striking out nine. He struggled a little during the month of March, giving up early runs in several starts, but last week he got better the deeper he went into the game. He ended up throwing 119 pitches and held the Cowboys hitless in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.
Sophomore Brogan Heinen is 1-1 on the year in his six starts with a 3.86 ERA. He only gave up one run on one hit last weekend against Texas, but like the other K-State starting pitchers he struggled with his control, walking four Longhorns and existing the game after the third inning.
As a team the Wildcats are batting .276 and average 6.2 runs per game. They’re tied with TCU for second in the Big 12 with 24 home runs on the year. That attack is led by freshmen Cameron Thompson and Will Brennan. Thompson, the leadoff man, is hitting .374 and leads the team with nine stolen bases on 12 attempts and 20 runs scored on the year. Will Brennan is hitting .318 on the year and has been K-State’s best hitter over the last 12 games. Senior Jake Scudder leads the upperclassmen with a .280 average and is tied with Luken Baker for the Big 12 lead in home runs (5).
Nolan Brown still leads the Horned Frogs with a .314 batting average, but the rest of the team is catching up quickly as the offense has come to life over the last couple of weeks. Austin Wade is now also hitting over .300 at .304 with three home runs and is second on the team in runs scored (21), walks (20) and stolen bases (9-12). Luke Baker and Josh Watson are hitting .299 and .295 respectively and Baker still leads the regular starters in runs scored (28), home runs (5), slugging percentage (.532) and on base percentage (.461). Evan Skoug is now second on the team with four homers and is rounding into form at the plate, hitting .283 in his last 11 games.
The games this weekend against Kansas State are scheduled to begin at 6:35pm, 2:00pm and 1:00pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday respectively. All three games can be viewed on ESPN3.