Infield transitions with new starters

Returning only one starting senior to the infield and slotting new starters in all but two infield positions usually doesn’t bode well defensively for a baseball team that was on the cusp of a College World Series berth a season ago.

However, the No. 11 preseason ranked Horned Frogs will lean on the experience of the two returning infield starters while hoping that the new starters, one being a junior college transfer, will make a smooth transition into their starting roles.

Senior Matt Curry will start at first base, and takes the position of last year’s power hitter Matt Vern.

“Last year it was a great experience for me because I got to play behind him,” Curry said. “I’m going to try to step up this year and take his spot and be what he was for our team last year.”

Curry had 38 starts last season as a designated hitter.

“I watched how (Vern) handled himself on the field,” Curry said. “He took bats pitch by pitch. Hopefully I can do the same.”

Curry also had nine starts as the first baseman in which the Horned Frogs posted a 7-2 record.

Junior Jerome Pena, a transfer from Western Nevada Community College, will start at second base. Pena was named as the 24th top prospect out of Nevada by Baseball America.
Head coach Jim Schlossnagle said transfers often take time to adjust.

“Junior college transfers, just like freshmen, usually take two years before they figure it out,” Schlossnagle said.

Returning to the shortstop position is sophomore Taylor Featherston. He appeared in all 58 games last season, starting 48 times at shortstop. He also led the 2009 team with 22 multiple hit games.

“After last year I feel like I gained a lot of experience,” Featherston said. “I understand how it works now, and I have the second and third basemen that are new under my wing. Curry and I have to show them how we operate.”

Redshirt sophomore Jantzen Witte is one player slated to take over at third base. The other is Davy Wright, who was granted a medical redshirt after an injury as a true freshman last season.

“Even though Witte and Wright didn’t play last year, they’ve been around college baseball enough to hopefully get more out of them then you would a freshman,” Schlossnagle said.

Wrapping up the lineup is senior Bryan Holaday, the only returning player in the infield who has started for over a year.
“My biggest personal challenge is trying to help the younger guys on the team step up and eliminate adversity,” Holaday said. “I’m confident in the way I play, the ability of the team and what we’re going to be able to accomplish.”

Schlossnagle’s said his goal is to ideally post a fielding percentage of over .970 and ERA under 4.0. Even with all of the new talent, he said he is aware that the season ahead will be a challenge.

“You want to have pride in the fact that TCU is a good program and we can certainly host a regional,” Schlossnagle said. “It’s really tough to get there, but it’s even harder to stay.”