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TCU 360

TCU 360

All TCU. All the time.

TCU 360

Delaney Vega, a TCU journalism junior, is painting a school in Belize. (Courtesy of Teja Sieber)
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By Ella Schamberger, Staff Writer
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TCU baseball season preview: Frogs are locked and loaded for another deep run this season

After finishing in the final four last season the Frogs are primed to make another run this year with new found experience and reinforcements.
Michael Clements/Ellman
TCU vs Indiana State baseball NCAA Super Regional game during the Fort Worth Super Regional at Lupton Stadium on the TCU campus in Fort Worth, Texas on June 10, 2023.

Coming off a year where the Frogs found themselves as one of the final four teams in Omaha, Frog fans are expecting a similar result after coming so close to a national baseball title. TCU definitely has the team to do it, from returning stars to excellent transfers and newfound experience, Frogball appears to be as good as it’s ever been. The team comes in at No. 5 in the preseason rankings and is expected to win the Big 12 again.

TCU baseball’s play-by-play broadcaster Chuck LaMendola has been the voice of TCU baseball for the past 28 years. He said that even though the Frogs have a tough schedule, he sees a team with the talent to reach the NCAA finals again.

“I’m as excited about this team as I was in 2016,” LaMendola said. “That was a team I thought could win the whole thing… if things go our way, this team could certainly make it to the finals,” he said.

Before the first pitch on Friday, here are four factors that could shape TCU’s season and LaMendola’s perspective.

Young core with new experience

One of the most intriguing aspects to last year’s team was the number of freshmen who, in many ways, helped lead the team to a 44-24 record resulting in a Big 12 title. Anthony Silva, Kole Klecker, Karson Bowen and Ben Abeldt were all huge contributors in their first season playing at Lupton and gained a lot of experience.

“I think getting the experience they had, getting to Omaha, what you have now is a core group of people… they now know what it takes to get to Omaha,” LaMendola said.

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Sophomore slumps are real, but don’t expect these four freshman superstars to falter in year two. With multiple key players leaving for the major leagues — including Brayden Taylor, Elijah Nunez and Tre Richardson — these young phenoms are thrust into leadership roles after the success of last season.

“By having that core group, it is going to pay dividends maybe at the end of the season more than anywhere else,” LaMendola said.

Transfer impact

TCU got active in the transfer portal this offseason, picking up some great names to solidify this already loaded roster. No transfer is more exciting than two-way player Peyton Tolle.

“Tolle is going to be a big part of how far this team goes. You lost your two best offensive players in Brayden Taylor and Cole Fontenelle. Those are big bats you have to replace,” LaMendola said.

Tolle is in a rare group of players that both hits and pitches. After the emergence of Shohei Ohtani’s success in the big leagues, more baseball players are pursuing being two-way players. Tolle is one of the few with the talent and results that allow him to do both. In his Sophomore season at Wichita State, he hit .311 with 13 home runs and 50 RBIs. He’s a force on the mound too, pitching 85 2/3 innings with a 4.62 ERA and 97 strikeouts last season for the Shockers.

Tolle should have an immediate impact for the Frogs.

“When I go down there and watch him in intrasquad, the guy can really hit and hit for power, especially from the left side. He was hitting balls to places most guys aren’t,” LaMendola said.

“He’s got really good stuff on the mound. He looks really good, and as a two-way player he’s going to really contribute in both of those areas,” he said.

Tolle will play first base for the Frogs when he is not on the mound.

TCU also picked up infielders Peyton Chatagnier from Ole Miss and Jack Basseer from Pepperdine. As for the arms, they got pitchers Ben Hampton from West Virginia and Colt Taylor from Tennessee Tech.

Loaded schedule

The Big 12 is a powerhouse when it comes to baseball, but TCU has a tough non-conference schedule as well. The Frogs have a series lined up with both USC and UCLA before conference play begins. Playing good competition early in the season will bode well as they head into conference play.

“I’m particularly excited for the home series against UCLA. We’ve had our run-ins with UCLA in the postseason before… but they’re always good. That’s going to be a fun series,” LaMendola said.

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Once Big 12 play begins, the Frogs will have a target on their backs as they are the pre-season favorites to win the conference. Oklahoma State is expected to be the other main contender.

“Oklahoma State is always good. I would never count them out and we have to play them up there. I think they are going to be the biggest problem for us,” LaMendola said.

Other programs such as Texas Tech and Texas are always competitive as well. Kansas is also a dark horse that could make some noise. While the Frogs are the favorites, it surely won’t be an easy path to a conference title.

“There are no weekends off,” LaMendola said.

Year three of Kirk Saarloos

After a phenomenal year two, head coach Saarloos enters year three with some help from a new pitching coach, Dave Lawn.

“Now he is just a head coach,” LaMendola said. “He is letting the assistants do all the work, which is exactly what you want from your head coach. I think you are going to see a much more relaxed attitude from him.”

Giving up some coaching responsibility on the pitching staff will allow Saarloos to focus more on what’s happening on the field.

“Managing the game in game without dealing with the rest of it is where we will see the most growth from Kirk Saarloos, where he is just focused on what’s happening at that moment on the field,” LaMendola said.

Opening day

Saarloos and his Horned Frogs are hitting the field this week. The long-anticipated sequel to last season’s magical run commences on Friday when the Frogs host Florida Gulf Coast for a three game series. First pitch on Friday is set for 6:30 p.m. CST, 2:00 p.m. CST Saturday and 12:30 p.m. Sunday from Lupton Stadium and streaming on ESPN+.

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