June 16, 2010

CWS Previews


Arizona St. | Clemson | Florida | Florida St. | Oklahoma | South Carolina | TCU | UCLA

By Matt Rybaltowski
Special to NCAA.com

AUSTIN, Texas -
When Jim Schlossnagle served as an assistant at Tulane last decade, he dreamed of taking the head coaching helm at TCU.

At the time, he reasoned if you could poll 100 college coaches on three up-and-coming programs that could permanently establish themselves with the proper commitment, TCU would be among the trio. But with outdated facilities and seemingly little support, the program struggled for years. That changed in 2003 with the construction of the $7 million Lupton Stadium and a coaching change. Schlossnagle jumped on the opportunity.

Schlossnagle immediately hit the recruiting trail and sold perspective players on his intention to lead the program to its first trip to the College World Series in school history. Schlossnagle's first recruiting class in 2004 was ranked third by Baseball America, while last year's class, which included ace pitcher Matt Purke, was ranked fourth. On Sunday in Austin, Schlossnagle's dream came to fruition in a 4-1 victory over Texas to win the Super Regional and advance to the CWS.

"If you look across the country and see how many private schools are in good weather and in baseball hotbeds that are committed to baseball, there aren't very many," Schlossnagle said. "Once they built the ballpark and the administration stayed committed to making (the program) better, I felt if we just did the work and made the right decisions it could happen."

Junior Aaron Schultz, the hero of Sunday's decisive Game 3, believed in Schlossnagle's sales pitch from the time the coach visited his home. Leading 1-0 and three innings from Omaha, Schultz provided the Horned Frogs with a cushion with a two-run home run off National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Stopper of the Year finalist Chance Ruffin. In the ensuing inning, he fended off a Texas rally with a scintillating over-the-shoulder catch on the center-field warning track.

"When I first got there coach preached facilities and classes and all of that, but the biggest goal of everyone at TCU was going to Omaha," Schultz said after Sunday's game. "Our work's not done, we're looking to get back to work."

The Horned Frogs (51-12) will arrive in Nebraska after setting a host of school records. Schlossnagle's team has the most wins (51), home runs (92), doubles (173) and runs scored (543) in school history. TCU also has a fielding percentage that hovers near .970, three starters that have combined to post a record of 37-3 and an intimidating closer of their own in Tyler Lockwood.

"They have a very well-designed team, good starting pitchers, good bullpen setup guys, they understand the importance of a closer and they battle at the plate," Texas coach Augie Garrido said. "It's (a) well-constructed (team)."

While Schlossnagle did not comment on any of the three other teams in their side of the bracket - Florida State, Florida and UCLA - he said none possesses a starting pitcher as good as Taylor Jungmann of Texas or a closer as tough as Ruffin. When the Horned Frogs take on the Seminoles (47-18) in the opening round on Saturday, TCU pitchers must be aware of Florida State junior Mike McGee, who has 15 home runs on the season and defeated Vanderbilt on Friday with a walk-off homer.

Schlossnagle will likely start Purke, a 2009 Texas Rangers' first-round pick, who struck out 11 Longhorns in Game 1 with a dominating fastball and a deceptive slider. The Horned Frogs lineup, which has nine starters that bat over .300, is led by seniors Matt Curry and Bryan Holaday.

"Omaha's the pearly gates of my profession, it's the pearly gates of college baseball," Schlossnagle said. "I think we can do a lot of things."