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TCU baseball: What to watch for vs. Baylor

The Frogs don’t have much room for error entering a crucial weekend series with the Bears

Melissa Triebwasser

It’s crunch time for TCU baseball, to state the obvious.

Having dropped five of six — a lull that has cost TCU a spot in the rankings as of Monday — the Horned Frogs are staring down what has quickly become a must-win-series as No. 21 Baylor comes into town for a three-game slate beginning Friday night.

And quite frankly, Jim Schlossnagle & Co. will be looking to flip the script from how things have gone against the Bears of late. 2018 was about as bad as things could get for TCU against its Big 12 arch-rival, as the Horned Frogs were swept in Waco during the regular season before .... well, you know what, we will never ever speak of that cursed Sunday afternoon in Oklahoma City last May. Bottom line, the Horned Frogs have dropped four straight against Baylor entering Friday night, and that will have to change if TCU intends to keep the return to the postseason this June an achievable feat.

Here’s a rundown of what to expect this weekend at Lupton Stadium as the revivalry turns to the baseball diamond.

TCU vs. No. 21 Baylor

When: Game 1 — Friday @ 6:30 p.m.; Game 2 — Saturday @ 3 p.m. CT; Game 3 — Sunday at 1 p.m. CT

Where: Lupton Stadium — Fort Worth, Texas

TV: Live stream at HFTV (Friday and Sunday), Fox Sports Southwest (Saturday)

Radio: KTCU 88.7 FM

TCU record: 23-16 (6-6 Big 12)

Baylor record: 27-12 (9-5 Big 12)

Game 1 probables: TCU — Nick Lodolo (5-3, 2.20 ERA); Baylor — Paul Dickens (4-1, 3.33 ERA)

All-time series: Baylor leads 147-123

Last-meeting: 2018 Big 12 Tournament Title Game — Baylor 6, TCU 5 (11 inn.)

What to watch for

We’ll start with the good news — that TCU has never dropped a series against Baylor at home since joining the Big 12 in time for the 2013 season. Granted, the Horned Frogs have only hosted the Bears in Fort Worth on three previous occasions since joining the conference, but 3-0 is 3-0. And with the Horned Frogs sitting at only .500 in Big 12 play entering the weekend, the motivation to keep that streak alive — combined with the revenge factor — has likely never been higher.

Unfortunately, the past two weeks haven’t made for a stretch where it always feels like the sun will come up tomorrow for TCU. For one, the Horned Frogs have been held to 4 runs or less in four of their last six games — a stark contrast to the production that the bats were showing in the early going, but a trend where it’s suddenly no surprise that TCU has struggled to post wins of late.

And the bullpen? Well, we don’t need to say much about the struggles there. Let’s just hope it can come back to life against a Baylor team that enters Friday having won five of seven. That only boils down to more pressure for TCU’s top producers at the plate — and considering runs haven’t been as easy to come by for the Horned Frogs as they’d like, there simply are no guarantees. Pretty or ugly though, we should exit the weekend with a much better sense of TCU’s identity for the stretch run — or at least one would assume with a top 25 opponent on deck.

Know thy opponent

Don’t fall into the Bear trap: TCU has the weapons on the mound to win, and they’ll need to show their best stuff in the coming days against a Bears team that knows how to hit. Baylor checks in with the sixth-highest batting average in the nation (.314), 14th in total hits (437) and 12th in slugging percentage (.483).

Watch out for Wendzel: He’s not the only threat, but Davis Wendzel is perhaps capable of doing the most damage of anybody on the Bears roster. The junior from Orange County, Calif., has been a big reason for Baylor’s success at the plate this season, racking up 59 hits this year entering the season — good for 37th overall in the nation. 17 of those hits have been doubles. Wendzel additionally ranks in the 25 in OBP at 0.497. Give him the right (or should we say wrong) pitch, and it could make for trouble this weekend.