Baseball team rebuilds

College baseball teams usually start with known commodities such as a tested pitching staff and an experienced batting lineup, but TCU’s baseball team is starting the 2008 season from scratch in most areas.

The team lost the 2-5 hitters in its batting order, the entire starting pitching staff and All-American closer Sam Demel.

“There’s certainly a lot of areas that are unsure or up for grabs right now,” head coach Jim Schlossnagle said.

The holes left in the pitching staff by graduation and the pro draft equal opportunities for players that haven’t had the chance to crack the rotation yet.

Schlossnagle said the start total for the entire starting rotation is probably about five or six games.

The infield is built around four players who have all started games for TCU in the past.

The outfield is anchored by senior center fielder Clint Arnold, who will be flanked by platooning left and right fielders.

Arnold said one of the team’s big advantages is that most players can play multiple positions. Several players who have mostly played infield will have a chance to play in the outfield this season.

The team has categorized itself as a dirtbag, blue-collar type squad, which focuses on hustling and concentrated, mistake-free play.

“Just hustle, get after it, (get) a lot of doubles, play great defense and we’re going to run a lot better than last year,” Arnold said. “We’re really going to have to do the small-ball type things.”

The team plan is a more grind-it-out style during ball games.

“There’s not going to be too many days we outscore people,” Schlossnagle said. “We’re going to have to play good defense, and we’re going to have to pitch well, but that’s also how you have to win in the postseason.”

Last year the team was knocked out of the postseason by the Rice Owls in the championship game of the NCAA Regional tournament.

Arnold said the team’s lack of power should not be a problem when it comes to scoring runs.

“We’ve got some guys that can swing the bat. The way we score runs and the style we do it is different, but we’re still going to be able to score,” Arnold said. “We’re going to steal some bases, (and) hit some doubles and triples rather than home runs.”

By having a team that cannot rely on power and offensive explosions, Schlossnagle said, he believes this will help the team compete in the postseason against teams with great pitching.

“Teams that rely on the home run sometimes can struggle in the postseason, so maybe that style of play will better suit us at the end of the season,” Schlossnagle said.

TCU ended last season one spot out of the USA Today college baseball poll, and at times was ranked in the top 20.

Schlossnagle said grabbing such a high ranking may not happen again this season, but said even with a difficult schedule, if the team gets on a roll, a return to the rankings is possible.

Junior Chris Ellington, who transferred from Grayson County College, said everyone on the team is really close and they are hard workers.

“That’s what it takes to win,” Ellington said.

As if the team’s player losses were not enough, TCU also has one of the more difficult non-conference schedules in the nation, Schlossnagle said.

TCU starts off with a bang, playing 2004 College World Series Champions Cal State University Fullerton at Lupton Baseball Stadium, in what will be the inaugural round of a four-year series.

“They just don’t leave home for anybody,” Schlossnagle said.

NCAA rule changes this season required the team to hold off practice until today. The NCAA season features a true opening day on Feb. 22, when the Horned Frogs face Fullerton in the first game of the four-game set.