Despite a rocky first series of the season at Sam Houston in Huntsville, Texas, last weekend, it’ll be the same three starters on the mound for Nebraska (1-3) as it makes a return trip to the Lone Star State, this time to Arlington to play three games against the No. 17-ranked TCU Horned Frogs (3-1).
Left-hander Kyle Perry will get the start in game one on Friday at 6 p.m. while righties Shay Schanaman and Dawson McCarville will get the ball on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Perry, Schanaman and Braxton Bragg combined to allow 13 earned runs in their starts against Sam Houston. McCarville lasted the longest of the four starters, pitching four innings and giving up just one earned run. Nebraska’s pitching staff left Huntsville with a combined earned-run average of 5.81.
“I expect those guys to have a good bounce-back,” head coach Will Bolt said on Wednesday inside the Alex Gordon Training Facility in Lincoln.
TCU will come into the series ranked No. 17 by D1Baseball. The Horned Frogs haven’t played a series against one team yet. Instead, they played single games against San Diego, California, Houston and Stephen F. Austin in Scottsdale, Arizona, last weekend and won them all except against Cal, where they fell 7-6.
TCU is riding a two-game winning streak and outscored its last two opponents, Houston and Stephen F. Austin, by a combined 21-1.
“It’s not going to get any easier. They’re always a national program, they reload every year,” Bolt said of TCU.
The Horned Frogs are coached by Kirk Saarloos, who was named head coach on June 15, 2021, after being an assistant in Fort Worth since 2013.
“They’re extremely well-coached, they have a new head coach, but he’s been there and been an architect of their College World Series teams,” Bolt said. “I have a ton of respect for how they play the game and how they go about it. It’s going to be a really big challenge. It’s something I know our guys are excited about.”
The series between Nebraska and TCU will be played at Globe Life Field, a state-of-the-art ballpark that the Major League Baseball’s Texas Rangers play in. Globe Life’s retractable roof may come in handy this weekend as the forecast for Arlington calls for temperatures in the 40s with Saturday’s chances of rain at 46%, according to weather.com.
“They get to play in a big league ballpark, and let’s hope Mother Nature doesn’t shut down Texas while we’re down there,” Bolt said.
TCU has been aggressive on the base paths this season and already boasts 10 steals, which is tied for 24th nationally, on 11 attempts. Nebraska catcher Griffin Everitt will need to keep an eye on TCU’s Elijah Nunez if he gets on base—he’s a perfect 6-for-6.
Sitting down the lead-off hitter is one way to fight back against teams that like to run, Bolt said.
“We didn’t do a very good job of that this past weekend either. Get the lead-off hitter, mixing up your timing, those types of things,” Bolt said of about pitching against strong base-stealing teams. “Don’t get into too much of a rhythm, but you also don’t want it to take away from your conviction on your pitch, so that’s the point of the pressure run game, is to take your attention off the hitter, so we’ve got to be cognizant of, we have to go get the hitter and trust our timing and looks, and those kinds of things are going to be where they need to be to slow that running game down.
“We have a great catcher (Everitt) who is really one of the best catch-and-throw guys in the country.”
Brice Matthews, a native of Humble, Texas, said he had 30-40 family members attend the Sam Houston series. He’ll have that many again against TCU. The shortstop had a slow start at the plate against the Bearkats by going 1-of-12 with seven strikeouts, but did deliver a big two-run double in last Saturday’s 12-9 win.
Matthews was just a freshman last year as he learned how to be a college baseball player on the fly. Now that he’s got a season under his belt, he’s becoming more of a leader.
“I think nerves had a part to do with it,” he said of the 1-3 record at Sam Houston, “also just being the aggressor and being ready to play, I don’t think we fully had that and I think that’ll change this week.”
TCU’s pitching and the defense behind it had strong showings in their first four games. The Horned Frogs’ pitching staff has a combined ERA of 2.62, tied for 38th in the country, while the infield has racked up four double plays, tied for 36th.
One of TCU’s top hitters is senior Tommy Sacco, who’s batting .533 on 15 at-bats. He has eight hits and an on-base percentage of .611.