The Road to Omaha starts this weekend for TCU as the 2016 college baseball season is off and running.
The Horned Frogs, coming off back-to-back trips to the College World Series, are the preseason favorites to repeat as Big 12 champions. As far as the polls go, The USA Today Coaches has TCU at 11th, while Collegiate Baseball has them 15th and Baseball America ranked them 18th.
Now youth is the big question going into this season. They welcomed 18 newcomers in the fall, ranging from freshmen to junior college transfers. “You don’t know what you have until you play the games,” said head coach Jim Schlossnagle. “There’s a lot of things about this team that I like, at least that I’ve seen in practice.”
Catcher Evan Skoug played in all 66 games last season as a freshman. Now, as a sophomore, he’s considered one of the veterans. So how does TCU replace all the experience gone from last year’s team with the new faces? “Just becoming our own team,” Skoug said. “Just kind of working with their strengths and continue to improve on their weaknesses is just what they have to do.”
With me being a pitching geek, let’s talk pitching. TCU lost three pitchers to the amateur draft, and preseason All-American Mitchell Traver will miss the start of the season due to a muscle strain in his back. He was the only experienced starting pitcher returning. “There’s some diversity amongst our pitching staff,” Schlossnagle said. “Other than maybe a couple of starting pitchers, there’s no defined roles.”
What about hitting? Well, the thoughts around the ballpark is the Frogs lineup could possibly mash this season. Watching the ball fly off the bat during batting practice by some of the hitters like 2015 National Gatorade Player of the Year Luken Baker is always fun, but what will be interesting is seeing how they match-up against the Big 12 pitching once you get into that part of the season.
So does the 2016 squad feel the pressure to live up to what the program has achieved over the last couple of years. “I think the challenge for this team is they need to write their own story,” Schlossnagle said.
The season-opener against Loyola Marymount is Friday at Lupton Stadium in Fort Worth. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
Written by C.James