Texas Longhorns Baseball: Horned Frogs Invade Austin For Showdown With Horns


TCU Invades Austin For A Key Big XII Series With The Longhorns This Weekend.  Mandatory Credit: David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

The fourth ranked Texas Longhorns (30-8, 9-3 Big XII) play host to an old foe this weekend when the TCU Horned Frogs (23-13, 7-5) invade Austin.  The series between the Horns and Frogs dates back to the old Southwest Conference days, with Texas dominating the all-time series 220-60-2.  However, recent history has been much more kind to TCU.  Since 2009, the teams have split their ten meetings.  TCU took the series last year in Fort Worth in their first meeting as conference rivals since 1995.  The last time these teams met in Austin was in the NCAA Super Regionals in 2010, when the Horned Frogs earned their first College World Series trip with a 2-1 series win.

TCU has been red hot in April, going 8-1 this month overall and 5-1 in Big XII play, having swept West Virginia and taking two of three from Kansas.  The catalyst for the Frogs has been their hitting.  TCU is hitting .337 as a team this month and they’ve scored seven or more runs in four games, including double digits twice.  Junior infielder Derek Odell has been a big part of that surge.  Odell enters the series on a 10 game hitting streak.  He has also scored 11 runs in his last 11 games and has an impressive .580 OBP.

TCU’s leading hitter, however, is sophomore OF Boomer White.  White leads the Big XII with a .378 batting average.  He has hit safely in 32 of 36 games this season and has reached based successfully in all but one game.  Lasy year, White hurt the Horns, collecting four RBIs in the three game set while hitting .333 for the series.

The Frogs are a threat to run if they get on base.  TCU has stolen 51 bases this year.  They are led by junior OF Cody Jones, who has swiped 16 bases this year.

TCU also fields a stout pitching staff.  They have used six starting pitchers this season who have combined for a sparkling 2.61 ERA.  Their ace is Brandon Finnegan.  Finnegan is 7-2 with a 1.76 ERA and 84 strikeouts.  Opponents are hitting a measly .199 against him this year.  Finnegan is expected to start tonight against Parker French, Texas’ leading strikeout artist with 42 this year.

The other starting match-ups this weekend will feature Preston Morrison (5-4 1.80) vs Dillon Peters (5-2 2.70) on Friday night.  Then Longhorn ace Nathan Thornhill (4-0 .72) faces TCU’s Alex Young (1-1 4.50) in the Saturday finale.

If TCU gets the lead late, it could be lights out for Texas.  Closer Riley Ferrell is 6 of 7 in save opportunities with an ERA of .89.  Ferrell is tough to hit, having struck out 34 in only 20 innings of work.

All is now right in the world in Austin, where the Longhorns lead the conference and have won seven straight conference games, including three game sweeps of Baylor and Oklahoma.  Texas as a team leads the Big XII in hitting (.284) and ERA (2.43).  Texas is also solid in the field.  Texas leads the conference and is eighth nationally, having turned 39 double plays.

Texas’ offense is triggered by the hot trio of Tres Barrera, Zane Gurwitz and Ben Johnson.  Barrera is hitting .402 and slugging .582 since March 11 while collecting 22 RBI.  During that same time frame, Gurwitz is hitting ..368 with a .402 OPS while Johnson is slugging .556 with three doubles, a triple and a home run.

OF Mark Payton continues to rake.  Payton has now reached base safely in 77 consecutive games dating back to last season.  Payton leads the conference in OBP at .477 and walks (33) and is tied for the league lead with five triples.  He is sixth in the conference with a .348 batting average.

While the Texas starting pitchers have garnered a lot of ink this season, their bullpen has been stellar.  Texas is 24-0 this season when leading after six innings.  As a unit, the bullpen sports a 1.67 ERA.  Lefty reliever Travis Duke has yet to surrender an earned run this year in 14 innings of work.  Closer John Curtiss has collected five saves and has a 1.02 ERA.

The series starts tonight and concludes Saturday afternoon with all three games being televised on The Longhorn Network.