With veterans’ help, young players adjust to Horned Frog baseball

The baseball team’s newest additions on offense and defense have big shoes to fill after the departure of some important players from last year’s team. But with the aid of the team’s veterans, the newest Horned Frogs are already starting to fit in, the head coach said.

New to the Horned Frog infield this year will be freshman shortstop Taylor Featherston out of Taylor High School in Houston. Featherston was ranked as the 28th top prospect in Texas, according to Inside Prep Baseball.

“He’s a pretty physical player. He’s really strong and has pretty good size for his age,” baseball head coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “He’s got a really good arm, good hands and has some power at the plate. Just like anyone else he has to adjust to the college game, and most of that adjustment is mental. If he plays with the same confidence, arrogance and swagger he did as a high school senior, then he’ll be fine.”

Schlossnagle said he believes the veteran leadership around Featherston is a key to breaking the single season fielding percentage record yet again.

“Having a freshman shortstop, with a fifth-year senior to your right and a senior to your left in (Ben) Carruthers and a junior or senior at first base should help him in the transition,” Schlossnagle said.

With the departure of center fielder Clint Arnold, the only constant in the outfield is senior right fielder Chris Ellington. Ellington finished third on the team in batting average last season, batting .344. He led the team in RBIs with 55 and tied the TCU record for doubles in a season with 21. He was also named second-team all-conference for 2008.

“The only for sure thing right now is Chris Ellington will play (right field),” Schlossnagle said.

The race for the last two outfield spots is still in contention between an assortment of returning players and two incoming freshmen, Schlossnagle said.

Coming off a record-breaking season for team fielding percentage, the baseball team believes they can match or surpass the 2008 season’s success.

TCU finished the season last year with a .976 fielding percentage, breaking the previous record set in 1998 of .971. With three of the four starting infielders returning to action this season, senior third baseman Matt Carpenter believes the Horned Frogs can transfer the success in the field to the 2009 campaign.

“Coming off last year’s defense that set the school record for fielding percentage, the standards are high,” Carpenter said. “I think that we can match that or break it again because this team always does a really good job of focusing on defense.”

Offensively, the Horned Frogs look to bring back the power they had in the 2007 season, Schlossnagle said.

The goal for this season is to move past the NCAA Tournament Regional, which has been the end of TCU’s season the past five years.

“You don’t want to assume you’re going to win a conference tournament,” Schlossnagle said. “You don’t want to assume your going to be in a regional. But we’ve done that for five years and we want to move on.”