5 Things to Expect From TCU Baseball in 2017

Photo by Laura Belpedio

Being ranked as the preseason No. 1 on five different polls is a pretty big deal, but the TCU baseball team is trying not to overthink it. Head coach Jim Schlossnagle and players Luken Baker, Evan Skoug and Brian Howard talked Friday about the team's mindset entering the 2017 season. With the first pitch less than a month away, here are a few things to expect. 

1. Embracing the pressure

The Frogs "stole something" from last season's World Series champions, the Chicago Cubs (the team of TCU alumnus Jake Arrieta), Howard said. That's the concept of "embracing the target," or accepting high expectations and fulfilling them. 

"As soon as we admit that we're the target, which in my opinion we have been for the last couple years, but even more so this year, as soon as we admit that, it takes away some of that power that it has over us," Howard said. "We're going to go out there and say, 'Yeah, we know we're going to get everybody's best shot, but we've gotten everybody's best shot in the past, and this year they're going to get our best shot, too.' " 

2. Luken Baker playing first base

Photo by Laura Belpedio

Baker was prolific as both a pitcher and a hitter last season, but after dealing with arm issues, he spent the latter part of the season as a designated hitter. This season, however, Schlossnagle said Baker will be spending more time in the infield. 

With a new position, Baker said he's looking forward to getting out of the dugout more. 

"Sometimes it gets a little boring when your team's out there on the field, and you're sitting in there, so I'm excited to get out there," Baker said. "I'm excited to play some first base."  

3. An entertaining offense

Big hitters like Baker, Skoug and Elliott Barzilli helped contribute to the team's 55 home runs last season, and all three of them will be back this year. But even though several players on the team have the capability of sending the ball over the fence, Schlossnagle said hitting for power won't be a focus for this year's team. 

"This is an offense that's really experienced and that's really balanced," he said. "You've got power guys, you've got speed guys, you've got right hand hitters, left hand hitters, you've got one switch hitter, and some guys that have been in the program now for a while. If things stay healthy, it should be a really fun offense to watch and that can excite you in a wide variety of ways." 

4. A bigger role for pitcher Sean Wymer

Photo courtesy of TCU Athletics

Wymer started two games as a freshman last season and has improved since. Schlossnagle says Wymer may see more playing time in 2017. 

"He's really made some changes with his delivery and a couple of his pitches," Schlossnagle said. "We think he's probably going to have a really big season for us."

5. Tributes to Micah Ahern

Photo by Laura Belpedio

Schlossnagle still wears the "M" patch on his baseball cap in honor of Micah Ahern, who died last July at age 7 after a battle with neuroblastoma. Ahern signed a letter of intent with the Frogs in 2014 and spent time with the team every baseball season before his death. 

Schlossnagle said Ahern will be honored on opening day.

"He never leaves our heart, that's for sure," Schlossnagle said. "He helps me keep everything in perspective." 

The season starts Feb. 17 with a series at home against Penn State. The first pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Lupton Stadium. 

"To get the season started means everything to us," Skoug said. "The season goes by just like the snap of a finger. I look back on the last two years, and it goes so fast. I'm ready to soak up another year of great memories and just get out here and enjoy this baseball field." 

Molly Jenkins contributed to this story.