FROM CBB NEWS SOURCE
FORT WORTH, Texas- The TCU Horned Frogs are two days away from kicking off the 2009 campaign at No. 5 Cal State Fullerton. Gofrogs.com takes an in depth look at the team heading into their sixth season under head coach Jim Schlossnagle. In this edition, we will break down the offensive side of the game.
For the first time in three years, the Frogs have a hole to fill at shortstop with the departure of Bryan Kervin. Despite the loss of Kervin, TCU returns one of top second basemen in the country in Ben Carruthers.
Carruthers (.308, 33 RBI) is an extremely adept defensive player who also excels at the plate. His senior leadership will be huge as the Frogs usher in a new era at shortstop.
Taylor Featherston is the odds-on favorite to take over at shortstop as he impressed both offensively and defensively during fall workouts.
Corey Steglich will provide an experienced option if needed, while a duo of new comers in Brance Rivera and Davy Wright could also push for time.
The corner infield should be one of the strengths in 2009. Two-time all-conference performer Matt Carpenter (.283, 46 RBI) returns at the hot-corner, while Matt Vern also returns for his senior campaign.
Carpenter has been a staple at third base throughout his career. In 2008, the left-handed hitter found his power stroke, leading the team with 11 home runs.
While Vern (.275, 44 RBI) has spent the majority of the last two seasons at first base, transfer Matt Curry looks to push Vern for playing time. Curry, too, has the potential for power from the left side and showed a strong glove in fall practice.
Steglich has seen action in his career at both first and third and provides depth at those positions. After a year in the program, Relly Mercurio could get some time at first as well. Wright could also add dept at third base. The coaching staff continues to rave about the fall performance of freshman, Jantzen Witte. Witte will most certainly have a tremendous future in the program.
Despite the loss of all-conference centerfielder Clint Arnold, the outfield has the potential to be another strong part of the Frog squad in 2009. While only one regular starter returns, the Frogs possess a wealth of talent that can fill those gaps nicely.
Right-fielder and RBI-leader Chris Ellington (.344, 54 RBI) returns for his final season of collegiate baseball. Ellington finished the 2008 season with a strong showing both offensively and defensively, including becoming the team’s most clutch hitter, leading the team in two-out RBI.
On the other side of the field, Vern and Steglich look to be the favorites to split time in left. Look for the staff to try and keep both bats in the lineup in some capacity. Redshirt-freshman Aaron Schultz (.205, 2RBI) started in left in 2008 before an injury ended his season. He has the physical skills to compete for time in the outfield and his short experience last year should lead to improvement.
The hole in center field has numerous candidates, but Brett Medlin (.245, 3 RBI) emerged as they leading candidate after fall practice. The staff is taking a long look at Rivera in center as well. He is an exceptional athlete and one of the fastest players on the team. Similar to last year, Eric Givens will be used in late inning situations for defensive purposes.
Redshirt-freshman Zac Jordan and freshman Jason Coats both had outstanding performances in fall practices and will most definitely be given opportunities to compete for time. Coats, a former quarterback at Plano West, has shown unique athletic ability and a swing to drive the baseball into the gaps and, at times, displayed significant power.
The Horned Frogs are loaded at the catching position with three very talented athletes. First-team all-conference performer Bryan Holaday (.311, 41 RBI) returns as does Jimmy Pharr (.228, 15 RBI) and Hunt Woodruff (.263, 24 RBI).
Holaday should see the bulk of action behind the plate as he handled a staff that finished fifth nationally in ERA. He also led the league in runners caught stealing.
With a year of collegiate baseball behind him, Pharr could see a little more time behind the plate. He has shown to be a capable hitter and as his defense continues to prove, he could provide Holaday some relief behind the plate.
While he came to the program as a catcher, Woodruff appears to be penciled in to get more starts as the designated hitter or at first base. He is a versatile athlete who has been a big part of the Horned Frog offense in the last two years with his consistent ability to handle the bat.
Wright will also see time behind the plate. He has shown the ability to play several positions and earned some great experience over the summer as he hit .306 and played seven positions in the field as a high school senior in the Alaska Collegiate Summer League.
Newcomer Pete Sanborn will provide depth at the catching position and be a very important part of developing the pitching staff in the bullpen.
The coaching staff likes to play the hot hand so a number of different Frogs could find themselves as the DH on any given day. Curry (who hit over 20 homeruns last year in junior college), Vern, Woodruff, Coats, Wright and Steglich will all have chances to win jobs at 1st base, DH and left field