Steven Branscombe, USA Today Sports

Frogs look to regain footing against Baylor

TCU baseball looks to get back to their winning ways on Friday in Fort Worth.

Last week’s trip to West Virginia was a sour one for TCU Baseball, as the Horned Frogs suffered their first Big 12 series loss of the season after entering Morgantown riding a 13-game win streak. Having dropped No. 3 to No. 6 in D1 Baseball’s national rankings on Monday, the Frogs will be looking to right the ship this weekend as they host rival Baylor for a three-game series at Lupton Stadium in Fort Worth.

The series between the Frogs and Bears hasn’t necessarily carried much weight in recent seasons, aside from being a conference matchup, but Baylor enters Fort Worth Friday night as much improved squad – a common theme throughout the entire conference in 2017.

Sitting at 23-14 on the season, head coach Steve Rodriguez’s squad is only 5-7 in the conference but has won three of their past four contests, including a 2-1 series win over Texas last weekend. Baylor’s season has been punctuated highlighted by a 10-1 start that saw wins over then top 25 opponents in Ole Miss and Texas A&M at Minute-Maid Park in Houston.

Meanwhile, the Frogs have been nothing short of dialed in when it comes to Big 12 play, owning a 9-3 record while also sweeping the same three SEC opponents which Baylor faced in Houston last month (LSU, Texas A&M, Ole Miss). West Virginia, however, is the only common Big 12 opponent both teams has faced thus far, with Baylor also suffering a 2-1 series defeat to the Mountaineers.

There will be plenty of individual talent to keep an eye on as well as the two in-state foes go at it the next three days.

For the Frogs, no single player may stand out at the moment more than catcher Evan Skoug. While 2017 has been a rollercoaster ride for the junior batting .264 with 24 hits, Skoug has all but hit his stride of late. With three homers against West Virginia last weekend, including two in one game, he now leads the Frogs in long balls with eight on the season.

Another consistent piece of TCU’s production at the plate – outfielder Austen Wade. Wade may not be showing off the same power that players such as Skoug and Luken Baker have, but Wade leads all players with 45 RBIs and a .331 batting average on the season, owning a second best OBP of .442 behind Baker’s .448.

Baylor, on the other hand, does not have any single starter hitting over .300 entering the series, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be bats to watch out for. Catcher/first-baseman Aaron Dodson and Outfielder/first-baseman Kameron Esthay, who lead the team with respective batting averages of .295 and .285, have each launched five balls out of the park this season.

TCU pitchers will also be needing to pitch carefully to outfielder Richard Cunningham, who leads Baylor with 7 long-balls on the season despite hitting just .244 with 11 RBIs. But with the fierce trio of Jared Janczak, Nick Lodolo and Brian Howard, the Frogs have the arms needed to stifle Baylor’s bats.

The Frogs will, however, have some questions to address when it comes to the bullpen. TCU appeared to be in line for a series victory against West Virginia last Sunday when they owned a 4-3 lead entering the ninth inning, but normally reliable closer Durbin Feltman blew his first career save by allowing a stunning four walks and HBP. Feltman wasn’t alone in bullpen woes either, as reliever Cal Coughlin came in only to issue a walk-off walk.

It’s easy to dismiss Sunday’s missteps as a fluke given Feltman’s strong track record, but sitting on a loss in that fashion for five days only begs the question of how he’ll respond back in Fort Worth should head coach Jim Schlossnagle draw on him this weekend. Feltman’s ERA has jumped to 2.30 following the loss, higher than that of starting pitcher Jared Janczak (2.25).

Janczak, who is 6-0 on the season with 63 strikeouts, is projected to be on the bump for Friday night’s opener, followed by Lodolo (3-1) Saturday and Howard (4.82) for Sunday’s finale.

First pitch for tonight’s opener is set for 6:30 p.m. Weather may be a factor, as strong to severe thunderstorms are forecasted to move into the Fort Worth area in the early evening. Nonetheless, get prepared for what should be an intense weekend between the two Texas squads.


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