Friday: RHP Jared Janczak (1-1, 2.32 ERA) vs. RHP Kasey Ford (3-1, 5.57 ERA) | 6:30PM | Lupton Stadium | Fort Worth, TX | Watch: FSSW | Listen: 88.7 KTCU
Saturday: LHP Nick Lodolo (3-1, 4.15 ERA) vs. RHP Caleb Littlejim (2-0, 6.88 ERA) | 2:00PM | Lupton Stadium | Fort Worth, TX | Watch: FrogVision | Listen: 88.7 KTCU
Sunday: RHP Sean Wymer (0-1, 5.60 ERA) vs. RHP Justin Heskett 2-1, 5.19 ERA) | 1:00PM | Lupton Stadium | Fort Worth, TX | Watch: FSSW+ | Listen: 88.7 KTCU
Big 12 play kicks off for the Horned Frogs Friday night, as they welcome in a Kansas State squad that is reeling, having lost five of their last eight games, all against lesser competition. For a while, it looked like the Wildcats might be a player in the conference, as they dominated the early season awards thanks to some standout performances. But, things have fallen apart for EMAW, as they are 12-9 despite having played just two Power Five opponents and two ranked teams all season.
Thankfully, their basketball team is playing in the Elite Eight, so I doubt they care.
This is a huge series for the Frogs, who haven’t looked great over their last six games, winning just twice, enduring a three game losing streak, and getting shutout - at home - for the first time in 2018. Even in their two wins, they haven’t been sharp, surrendering a 4-0 lead in a 13 inning affair against Minnesota and looking a little sloppy in a 7-1 win Tuesday night against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. The youth of this team is showing, primarily in errors - TCU has committed 22 of those through 18 games, putting them on pace to be the worst-fielding team of the Jim Schlossnagle era. Their team fielding percentage of .969 is middle of the pack in the conference, and they have the second fewest stolen bases (11) in the league. This is not the TCU Baseball team we are used to seeing.
That being said, the Frogs are still one of the most talented programs in the country, and if they can find ways to grind out wins in conference play, they could find themselves right back in the mix come tourney time. And the way they can continue to mark the win column is by the help of their veteran bats and some seriously deep pitching.
Josh Watson has struggled over the last handful of games, but the junior left fielder still finds himself in the top ten in the Big 12 in ob% (.470) and slugging percentage (.612). Oddly enough, he’s the only Frog you will find on the leaderboard in any offensive category, as even Luken Baker (.293/.446/.534) can’t crack the top ten. Baker’s presence has certainly been felt - the threat of his big bat has given Watson plenty of good pitches to hit, and the two have hit four home runs apiece through the first 18 games. He also leads the team with 14 walks drawn, many of the unintentional/intentional variety.
It has, as is often the case for this program, been the pitching that has carried them - TCU is top two in the conference in ERA (2.99, right behind Baylor’s 2.89), is second to Oklahoma with 9.78 K/9, and still has five players with a 0.00 ERA coming out of the bullpen. The Frogs will likely be without Cal Coughlin for one more series as he recovers from back tightness, but have gotten consistent efforts from Augie Mihlbauer, Haylen Green, and Charles King in his absence. Jared Janczak has been great on Friday nights, Nick Lodolo hasn’t been as sharp as he is capable of but keeps finding ways to win, and Sean Wymer looked much more like his normal self in his last appearance - though it technically was from out of the bullpen.
The TCU pitchers will face a potent lineup this week, as the Cats hit .291 as a team and have mashed 17 home runs. Five regulars hit over .300, led by Will Brennan, who has a conference best .430 average. Drew Mount leads the team with seven long balls and an impressive 30 RBI, while slugging a ridiculous .708. The pitching has been suspect at best - a 5.32 team ERA is nothing to write home about and only two pitchers (Jaxon Passino and Jared Marolf) ave a sub-2.00 ERA on the year - though they lead the team with seven appearances each out of the pen.
This should be an opportunity for the offense to get right, and maybe even the breakout series we have been hoping for from Conner Shepherd. Johnny Rizer’s return to the lineup has given Schlossnagle some flexibility, and it will be interesting to see how he deploys that this weekend.
Needless to say, this is a huge series for the Frogs, who desperately need a strong start to conference play.
Game Notes courtesy of Go Frogs:
KANSAS STATE NOTABLES
• Kansas State is coming off a midweek split against Austin Peay. That came on the heels of a 2-1 series loss to College of Charleston.
• The Wildcats are 5-5 in their last 10 games played.• Kansas State ranks second offensively (.291), ninth in ERA (5.32) and fifth defensively (.965) in the Big 12.
• The Wildcats lead the league and rank 7th nationally with 47 stolen bases.
• Sophomore Will Brennan is the league’s top hitter with a .430 batting average.
• Junior Drew Mount leads the league in home runs (7), RBIs (30) and stolen bases (15).
• Defensively, the Wildcats are tied for the league lead with 18 double plays turned.
• The pitching staff is allowing opponents to hit .309 and has surrendered a league-high 21 home runs.
• The staff has issued the second-fewest walks in the league (66).
• Jared Marolf leads the team with two saves in seven appearances.
• TCU and Kansas State will be meeting for the 25th time in series history.
• TCU holds a 17-7 lead in the series.
• The Frogs and the Wildcats met on the diamond in 2013 for the first time since 1987.
• TCU is 11-4 against Kansas State as conference foes.
• TCU holds a 3-2 series lead as conference foes.
• TCU is 6-0 all-time against Kansas State at Lupton Stadium.
• TCU has won both conference series against Kansas State in Fort Worth, all via the sweep.
• TCU will play 31 games at home this season.
• TCU went 28-4 at home last season.
• Under the guidance of Jim Schlossnagle, TCU is 344-109 in games played at Lupton Stadium.
• TCU is 119-26 at home over the last three-plus seasons.
• TCU sold a school-record 2,764 season tickets.
• TCU ranked 10th nationally in average attendance this year with an average of 4,785.