“I committed first,” TCU second baseman Austin Henry says, smiling as he glances at TCU shortstop Hunter Wolfe, “because you had that thing with Tennessee.”
“We never really sat down and talked about it together, but it just happened to work out,” Wolfe responds.
Henry and Wolfe are TCU’s starting second baseman and shortstop, respectively, this season. But they go way back.
“It’s my fourth year with this guy,” Henry jokes. “Three long years,” Wolfe says, nodding.
Henry and Wolfe were teammates for the past two years at Walters State Community College in Morristown, Tennessee. Together they led WSCC to a 60-8 record in 2018, including a 29-game winning streak that spanned the entire month of March, and portions of February and April, and a National Runner-Up at the JUCO National Championship.
Now they’re facing teams like top-ranked Vanderbilt, and trying to continue the legend of Lupton Magic. Both were excited to finally play in front of the home crowd, but there were some extra jitters too.
“Warming up they showed the [The Magic video] and I looked at my jersey and was like, ‘dang,’ I’ve been dreaming for this for my whole life...it was a dream come true,” said Henry.
“It was definitely cool.” said Wolfe, “Honestly I was definitely more nervous for this one than even last weekend, playing in front of our home fans. You want to make a good first impression.”
They’ve definitely left a positive impression through the first four games. Henry leads TCU in total bases with nine, and is tied for the team lead in hits (7), doubles (2), and RBI (7).
Meanwhile, Wolfe is a perfect 5-5 in stolen base attempts to lead the Frogs, while he also leads TCU in walks drawn (6), and is tied for most runs scored (7).
It means even more to both of them that they’re getting the chance to do this together. But they’re focused on bigger dreams, and the larger team.
“I think it’s really going to mean something if we go to Omaha,” says Hunter.
“I think it’s a testament to how good junior college baseball is, Wolfe added, “Not just us two playing up the middle, but we have what, six or seven junior college guys that are making an impact right now. Junior college baseball I know has a bad rap, but there are really good players and hopefully you guys are seeing that.”
He’s not wrong, and we have noticed. JUCO transfer Alex Isola hit a three run bomb on Wednesday night to really blow the game open, and afterward Coach Schlossnagle said that he and Zach Humphrey would split time for the first five week, but that it would be dificult to keep Isola out of the lineup if he continues to hit well.
Brandon Williamson, Johnny Rizer, Jake Guenther and Andrew Keefer are all junior college products in the starting rotation/lineup as well, and will all be called on in significant ways to contribute this season. Not to mention Dean Frew and Conner Shepherd, two reserves who will still see substantial at bats.
It may feel JUCO heavy right now, but Wolfe sees the potential in this veteran team.
“I think we can go as far as we want to. Offensively we’re strong one through nine, we have one of the best pitching staffs in the country, defensively I think we’ll be able to handle it.”
“I definitely think we can achieve everything we set our sights on.”