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Monday Morning Manager: The TCU bats are...back?

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We knew the pitching would be there for TCU this year, but early returns suggest that TCU may be able to run up the score on some folks this year.

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Florida vs TCU Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball is baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack.

Pitchers and catchers reported for MLB teams last week, and college baseball got underway too. That included TCU, as they traveled to Scottsdale, Arizona to play in the inaugural MLB4 Tournament.

Friday saw TCU fall to Cal State Fullerton 2-0, but the Frogs bounced back in a big way with a 9-4 win over Virginia on Saturday, and a 10-2 thumping of No. 1 Vanderbilt on Sunday. There’s a lot to break down from the weekend, so let’s dive right in.

The Good

Starting pitching. Nick Lodolo, Jared Janczak, and Brandon Williamson combined for 12.2 innings pitched, with more strikeouts (12) than hits (11) allowed, and just five earned runs. The three tallied a 3.55 ERA and an impressive 1.26 WHIP. It’s all made even more impressive by the fact that Janczak and Williamson are both coming off of injury-riddled seasons. If these three can anchor TCU every weekend, it will be a long season for opposing lineups.

Josh Watson. The senior leader of this team sprinted out of the gate over the weekend. 5-11 from the plate with two doubles, four RBI, and four runs scored, with more walks (3) than strikeouts (2). Watson is the straw that stirs the drink for this lineup, so seeing him hit the ground running again after a great 2018 season is a wonderful sight.

The Eis-man. Jake Eissler could very well be a front-of-rotation starter on most other D1 schools, but at TCU he’s the do-it-all reliever that every team longs to have. Eissler went 5.1 strong innings in relief on Sunday, completely shutting down Vanderbilt’s stacked lineup and recording his first win of the season.

Porter Brown. The freshman went 7-12 at the plate with a double and two RBI, three stolen bases, and five runs scored. The best part about TCU’s newfound talent though is that his go-to on-base dance is the cabbage patch.

Base-related thievery. TCU stole 10 bases over the weekend. Aggressive base-running is a staple of TCU baseball, and it looks like it will be out in full force again this season. I absolutely love the pressure this puts on opponents, and TCU does it as well as anyone in the country.

The bullpen is really good. Charles King, Augie Mihlbauer, and Dalton Brown combined for 6.2 innings of shutout baseball, with a 7:2 strikeout to walk ratio. These three guys will be key for TCU in 2019 as they support one of the best starting rotations in college baseball.

JUCO reinforcements. Williamson locked it down on the mound, while Jake Guenther, Hunter Wolfe and Austin Henry showed that they’ll be a part of a bolstered lineup in 2019. Henry went 6-15 with five RBI over the weekend, while Guenther went 5-13 with four RBI, including a 3-4 night to boost the Frogs against Virginia.

Wolfe, meanwhile, worked five walks, scored four runs, and stole three bases from the bottom of the lineup. Having a guy like Wolfe who can turn the lineup over is one of the big pieces TCU was missing in 2018.

Meanwhile, all three played near-flawless defense as 34 of TCU’s infield, combining for just a single error.

The Growing Edges

There really wasn’t much to call “bad” from this weekend, so we’ll frame this section as “players/stuff with room to improve.”

Zach Humphreys. Humphreys was solid defensively over the weekend, throwing out two of three potential base-stealers in his two starts at catcher. His 0-8 start at the plate is a little concerning, though. Humphreys hit .225 in 2018, and he doesn’t need to be a stud with a bat, he just needs to be capable of keeping the lineup moving.

Stranded, send help. TCU left 26 runners on base over the weekend, including 12 in their 2-0 loss Friday night against Cal State Fullerton. LOB is a part of the game, but driving runners in when the opportunity presents itself will be big for the Frogs. Giving this pitching staff a lead, especially early in games, will make the Frogs incredibly tough to beat.

What’s Next?

The Frogs host Abilene Christian this week for their home-opener. The game is scheduled for Tuesday at 6:30pm, but it appears as if the weather in Fort Worth will push the game back a day.

After that midweek game, the Frogs will host Grand Canyon University at Lupton this weekend.