Thursday, February 25, 2010

TCU Series Preview

By FullertonBaseballFan

Cal State Fullerton’s season got off to a slow start last weekend with only one win in three games. The Titans lost to Oregon in the much anticipated return of former head coach George Horton, were shut out by Pepperdine in an outstanding pitching performance by LHP Matt Bywater and beat Long Beach State, 8-1, with solid hitting and a good outing by Tyler Pill. Fullerton welcomes the TCU Horned Frogs to Goodwin Field in the only matchup this weekend of teams that are ranked in the top ten in at least one of the major polls.

TCU has appeared in regionals in all six seasons that Jim Schlossnagle has been in Fort Worth and look like they have an outstanding chance to once again play in a regional in June. The Horned Frogs were the Mountain West Conference regular season champions last year and their program took a step forward by both hosting and winning a regional for the first time before they were eliminated in a super regional by Texas. TCU is the unanimous choice to win the MWC on the strength of a deep pitching staff that returns almost every major contributor from last year and some strong recruiting classes that have infused the program with a high level of talent to overcome the departures of several seniors from the middle of their lineup.

TCU got their season off to a successful start with by winning all three games at home against Sam Houston State (who have qualified for three straight regionals as champions of the Southland Conference). The Horned Frogs opened up the season with a 4-0 win on Friday with three pitchers combining for a shutout before the bats woke up on Saturday and Sunday in 12-7 and 15-2 wins. It wasn’t much of a surprise that the staff ERA for the weekend was 2.88 and the TCU pitching staff held Sam Houston State to a .242 batting average. What was impressive was a lineup with five newcomers hit a scorching .392 with a .569 SLG % in the three game sweep.


TCU had an improved offense last season with a veteran laden lineup. The Horned Frogs went from hitting only 37 HR’s in 2008, which was easily the lowest total in Schlossnagle’s first five years at TCU, to hitting 67 HR’s last year. TCU would bunt with some of their lesser hitters but were pretty content to let the veterans swing the bats and it looks like they will have a similar approach at the plate with only one SAC bunt last weekend. The Horned Frogs didn’t run much last season and lost three of the four players with at least seven SB’s but ran wild last weekend with nine SB’s. TCU will take a patient approach at the plate and work counts to draw walks.


TCU had a very experienced infield last year with four returning starters and each of those starters was solid defensively. The Horned Frogs set school records for fielding % in 2007 and 2008 but slid back a little last year in that area while breaking in a new starter at SS. This year TCU is breaking in new starters at three positions after the graduation of SR’s at 1B, 2B and 3B.

C – SR Bryan Holaday (RH – .300/.351/.507, 10-48-2) is in his third year as a starter and is the team leader. He has been 1st or 2nd team all MWC the last two years. Holaday has good power and was 3rd on the team in HR and RBI last season and will hit 3rd. He is a very good defensive catcher and does a good job both blocking pitches (34 WP/PB) and against the running game and held runners to only 29-61 on SB attempts. Holaday went 5-12 with 1 HR and 4 RBI last weekend. He was 3-10 last year at Fullerton.

1B – SR Matt Curry (LH – .315/.421/.444, 3-31-2) came into TCU with a reputation for being a power hitter (20 HR, 90 RBI his Soph year in JC ball) and lived up to that prediction in the series at Fullerton with 2 HR and 4 RBI (5-12 in the series) but only hit one more HR the rest of the year. He will see lots of pitches and was among the team leaders in both BB’s and K’s last season. Curry has had some issues with his conditioning but lost 25 lbs in the offseason. He was the DH last season and will be playing 1B and hitting 6th. Curry went 5-10 with 1 HR and 5 RBI last weekend.

2B – JC Transfer Jerome Pena (Both) was drafted in the 40th round and is a solid defensive player who can also play SS and started there once last weekend. He has some pop in his bat (5-11 last weekend with 1 HR) for the #9 hitter in the lineup. Soph Aaron Schultz (RH – .254 in 71 AB’s) started the other game at 2B when Pena was at SS. He ended up playing CF at the end of last season due to some lineup shuffling to settle down the defense up the middle.

SS – Soph Taylor Featherston (RH – .322/.395/.461, 5-28-8) came into TCU with high expectations after being ranked among the top 30 players in Texas for the June ’08 draft. He lived up to those expectations at the plate and was 3rd on the team in H’s and R’s but struggled defensively and made 27 errors. Featherston ended up playing 2B for part of the season to make things easier for him on defense and to keep his bat in the lineup. He is predicted to contend for all MWC honors this season and went 3-8 last weekend. Featherston was 4-11 with 1 HR and 3 RBI last season at Fullerton.

3B – Redshirt FR Davy Wright (RH) is in the lineup for his glove and went 1-5 last weekend while batting 8th the first two games. Holaday played 3B on Sunday.

Outfield and DH

TCU’s OF looked like it would be a little unsettled going into the season with only one starter returning but they have been able to hit the ground running with two high impact FR stepping right into the lineup and giving the Horned Frogs an athletic OF.

LF – Soph Jason Coats (RH – .316/.393/.518, 6-32-2) stepped right into the lineup last season as a FR and was 3rd on the team in SLG %. He didn’t run much last year but stole three bases last weekend while going 4-11 and hitting 5th in all three games. Coats was 4-11 with 1 RBI last season at Fullerton.

CF – FR Kyle VonTungeln (LH) is the fastest runner on the team and was listed as one of the top 100 prospects in the draft last June in Texas. He went 3-12 and hit two 2B’s while leading off in all three games last weekend.

RF – FR Josh Elander (RH) is one of the best athletes on the team and has the potential to both hit for power (8-10 last weekend with 6 RBI) and run (4-5 SB’s last weekend) while hitting 7th. He has a good arm in RF because he is also the backup catcher and started behind the plate last Sunday.

DH – JC transfer Joe Weik (RH) is being looked at to provide power to the lineup and is hitting cleanup despite being a newcomer. He drove in 119 runs in two JC seasons. Weik was 4-10 with 5 RBI last weekend.


TCU should have another very good pitching staff this season and returns nine of their top ten pitchers from last year’s staff that ranked in the top 20 nationally in team ERA and H/9 IP. TCU also has the highest rated incoming recruit in the country to add to all of the depth that they have on their pitching staff.


FRI – JR Steven Maxwell (RHP – 3-2, 6.10 ERA, 12 apps, 10 starts, 38 IP, 49 H, 10 BB, 27 K, 5 HR, .331 BA, 3 HBP, 2 WP) has had a slow path back from TJ surgery in 2008 after making only three starts that season (one was a win against Fullerton – 7 IP, 2 R). He started to get healthier in the fall and has a fastball in the 92-94 range and a power curveball. Maxwell threw 4 2/3 scoreless innings last weekend with six K’s but struggled with his control and allowed five BB’s. He is projected to be drafted in the first ten rounds in June and could move up several rounds if he shows he is healthy this season.

SAT – FR Matt Purke (LHP) was the 1st round pick of the Texas Rangers last June but couldn’t agree to terms with them and ended up on campus in Fort Worth. He has a fastball in the mid 90’s and a solid changeup and curveball. He went five innings last weekend and allowed 4 R (3 ER) on 7 H and 1 BB with 8 K’s.

SUN – Soph Kyle Winkler (RHP – 7-1, 4.15 ERA, 17 apps, 14 starts, 74 IP, 70 H, 35 BB, 48 K, 5 HR, .262 BA, 7 HBP, 4 WP) ended up being the best SP on TCU’s staff last year, not suffering his first loss until the super regional at Texas, and gives them an advantage over the Sunday SP of most teams that they will face this season. He has a fastball in the low 90’s, a power sinker and a solid curveball and changeup. Winkler has struggled at times with his control, including his start at Fullerton where he allowed 6 R (1 ER) on 2 H and 3 BB in 3 IP. He only threw three innings last weekend because TCU got out to a big lead in his start and turned it into a staff day to get other pitchers some work.


TCU has a very deep bullpen with a good returning closer and several pitchers who have been SP’s during their careers.

SR Eric Marshall (RHP – 2-2, 1.48 ERA, 9 saves, 24 apps, 30 IP, 22 H, 5 BB, 20 K, 1 HR, .206 BA, 5 HBP, 1 WP) came out of nowhere to take over the closer’s role after only throwing 26 innings in middle relief in 2008. Marshall is a control specialist who keeps the ball down. He gave up the game winning run in the Friday night game his only appearance last year at Fullerton.

SR Tyler Lockwood (RHP – 4-2, 4.71 ERA, 17 apps, 9 starts, 71 IP, 75 H, 18 BB, 44 K, 6 HR’s, .281 BA, 11 HBP, 1 WP) was the Fri SP in 2008 and 1st team all MWC and one of the weekend SP’s last year. This season, Lockwood will be one of the middle relievers due to all of the pitching depth at TCU. He has very good control and does a good job of keeping the ball down. Lockwood allowed 1 R in 2 2/3 IP in two appearances last weekend. He has allowed 2 R in 8 1/3 IP in three appearances (one start) against Fullerton.

SR Paul Gerrish (RHP – 7-2, 3.84 ERA, 17 apps, 9 starts, 61 IP, 61 H, 16 BB, 59 K, 4 HR, .261 BA, 4 HBP, 1 WP) started out as a midweek SP and middle reliever last year and ended up the season as one of the weekend SP’s. He is a control specialist whose best pitch is a power sinker. Gerrish threw one scoreless inning in his only appearance last weekend.

JR Trent Appleby (RHP – 4-1, 3.61 ERA, 24 apps, 57 IP, 57 H, 20 BB, 47 K, 3 HR, .270 BA, 9 HBP, 2 WP) is another control specialist whose best pitch is a power sinker. He has been effective out of the bullpen for two years and hasn’t been a SP but and is capable of throwing several innings per outing. Appleby threw 3 1/3 scoreless innings in his only appearance last weekend.

JR Greg Holle (RHP – 5-2, 3.89 ERA, 12 apps, 9 starts, 42 IP, 43 H, 15 BB, 26 K, 2 HR, .269 BA, 3 HBP, 2 WP) was a weekend SP two years ago and a midweek SP last season. He was a high profile recruit coming into TCU and still projects to be drafted in the first 10-15 rounds despite not having a major role on the pitching staff. Holle allowed 3 R’s in 1 1/3 IP in his only appearance last weekend.

TCU also has several Sophs who were high profile recruits last year with Erik Miller (RHP – 0-2, 4.50 ERA, 22 apps, 26 IP, 3 saves), Kaleb Merck (RHP – 0-0, 5.94 ERA, 17 apps, 17 IP, 1 save) and Walker Kelly (LHP – 1-2, 7.71 ERA, 11 apps, 12 IP).


Fullerton played poorly in their first two games of the season before putting forth a much better effort in the final game last weekend. The Titans have to figure out which team is going to show up in order to win this series. Fullerton isn’t in a must win situation in this series but they are as close as you will find this early in the year because the Titans do not want to get off to a 2-4 or 1-5 start before playing the next three weekends on the road.

TCU rolled into Goodwin Field last year with a great deal of confidence and their experience lineup manhandled a relatively inexperienced Fullerton pitching staff. The Horned Frogs have quite a bit of turnover in their batting order this year but they didn’t hit like it in their opening series in the D1 debuts for five of their hitters.

Runs could be difficult to come by this weekend with the experienced and talented pitching staffs that both teams have. If it comes down to a battle of bullpens that would favor TCU because of the quality depth that the Horned Frogs have with their relievers. Fullerton has to score runs early and have their SP’s hold TCU down and work late into games. If the Titans are able to follow that formula Fullerton should win this series. If the Fullerton lineup is held down like it was the first two games last weekend or the SP’s for the Titans struggle then TCU will win this series.

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