After losing their 2020 season to the COVID-19 pandemic, several seniors on the TCU baseball team decided to return and play one more year for the Horned Frogs and head coach Jim Schlossnagle. With a veteran group coming back and young players on the rise, TCU won over 40 games and dominated in Big 12 competition, clinching a share of the regular season title and going unbeaten at the conference tournament in Oklahoma City.
The Horned Frogs entered the NCAA Tournament as the No. 6 national seed and hosts of the Fort Worth Regional with Oregon State, Dallas Baptist and McNeese State. Despite lofty expectations, TCU ultimately fell short of its goal to reach the College World Series, defeating McNeese but surrendering back-to-back leads against Dallas Baptist and Oregon State to end the season 41-19 overall and 17-7 in the Big 12.
While the offseason may only be a few days old, TCU has already lost a staple of its baseball program, with the announcement that Schlossnagle will depart for Texas A&M after 18 years as head coach of the Horned Frogs. Schlossnagle went 734-346 during his nearly two-decades-long tenure at TCU, leading the Horned Frogs to five College World Series appearances. Athletic director Jeremiah Donati said the university will conduct a national search for a new head coach, with current pitching coach Kirk Saarloos already seen as a fan favorite to land the job.
Not only will TCU need to find a successor to Schlossnagle, but the Horned Frogs will have several holes to fill across the roster. Seniors Zach Humphreys, Gene Wood, Hunter Wolfe, Austin Henry and Conner Shepherd will depart from the program, while pitchers Haylen Green, Charles King, and Dalton Brown are also moving on. However, with the right coach and continued growth from TCU’s talented young players, the Horned Frogs will be competing for the conference title again in 2022.
Junior Phillip Sikes and freshman Brayden Taylor are two big bats TCU will return in the starting lineup. Sikes finished the 2021 season as arguably TCU’s best hitter, leading the team with a .329 batting average (minimum 2 PA/G) as well as a .620 slugging percentage and a 1.047 OPS. Sikes also led TCU with 63 RBIs and 19 doubles. Taylor slashed .324/.445/.572 with team-highs in hits (72) and home runs (12).
TCU third baseman Brayden Taylor named Big 12 freshman of the year. Here's a story I did on him earlier this season -- https://t.co/uE1uYllymq— Drew Davison (@drewdavison) May 24, 2021
Juniors Gray Rodgers and Tommy Sacco could once again line the middle of the TCU infield in 2022. Rodgers had a phenomenal start to the 2020 season before the COVID-19 pandemic halted his progress, but he had a nice 2021 season, hitting .287 with a .383 on-base percentage, 51 hits and 35 RBIs. While Sacco tapered off at the plate as the season progressed, his defense and switch-hitting ability created mismatches for opponents.
Freshman Porter Brown shined during the Big 12 Tournament, earning Most Outstanding Players honors. The talented outfielder wound up with a .342/.444/.492 slash line, nine doubles and 30 RBIs. Brown became a staple at the top of the TCU lineup, but he could eventually becomes a three-hole hitter down the line. Brown atop the batting order, with Taylor, Sikes and Rodgers in the heart of the order, is a great start for the Horned Frogs. Freshmen Luke Boyers and Elijah Nunez could each see increased roles in 2021.
How TCU’s Porter Brown went from bench player to Big 12’s most outstanding player https://t.co/Y1hK9aVOyu— Fort Worth Star-Telegram (@startelegram) June 2, 2021
TCU finished with a .288 team batting average and an impressive .402 team on-base percentage. However, while the Horned Frog offense put runners on base throughout the season, TCU’s pitching wasn’t as strong as it’s been in recent seasons. The Horned Frogs recorded a 4.13 team ERA and a 1.32 team WHIP. TCU pitchers hit 59 batters and allowed a .248 opposing batting average.
Sophomore left-handers Austin Krob and Russell Smith are providing hope for TCU fans, however, and both players could headline the Horned Frog rotation in 2022. Krob and Smith finished with 3.81 and 3.83 ERAs, respectively, and the two southpaws combined for 197 strikeouts and 57 walks. The Horned Frogs will be hoping to see a bounce-back season from sophomore Johnny Ray, who showed plenty of promise in 2020 before struggling in 2021.
TCU will return a handful of young pitchers including freshman River Ridings, who posted a 1.08 ERA with 39 strikeouts. Freshmen Garrett Wright and Luke Savage, as well as sophomore Marcelo Perez and junior Drew Hill, are all eligible to return in 2021. Freshman Cam Brown posted a 1.93 ERA in three starts for the Horned Frogs this season before being shut down due to injury.