(Part 2 of a College World Series preview series)
Holding the nation's longest streak with four straight College World Series appearances, TCU has emerged as one of the nation's elite programs. Now the Horned Frogs are on a mission to bring a national championship trophy back to Fort Worth.
TCU (47-16) squares off against Florida (47-18) on Sunday at 6 p.m. at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha.
Home for the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, the Frogs beat Central Connecticut 9-6, Virginia 5-1 and Dallas Baptist 15-3 in the Regional, before handling Missouri State 3-2 and 8-1 in the Super Regional.
Sweeping the Super Regional for the first time in program history, the Frogs clinched the fifth CWS berth in program history. TCU and Florida are the lone returnees to Omaha from the 2016 field.
Coach Jim Schlossnagle's club sports a .272 composite batting average, while ranking first among CWS teams with 102 stolen bases.
Junior catcher Evan Skoug, the Big 12 Conference co-Player of the Year, has accounted for 20 of TCU's 57 home runs. His season totals also feature a .277 batting average, a .385 on base percentage, a .562 slugging percentage, nine doubles and 67 RBI. No other TCU batter has reached the 50 RBI plateau.
Selected in the seventh round by the Chicago White Sox in Tuesday's Major League draft, Skoug has socked four home runs while driving in an NCAA Tournament-leading 12 runs.
Setting the table at the top of the batting order is first-team All-Big 12 junior right fielder Austen Wade. The Cleveland Indians' fifth-round draft pick is slashing .342/.453/.504 with 78 hits, 115 total bases, five home runs, three triples, 16 doubles, 47 walks, 15 stolen bases and 52 runs.
A pair of seniors have been solid in the middle of the lineup. Second baseman Cam Warner has produced 20 multi-hit games while batting .292 with five homers and 49 RBI from the cleanup spot. Batting fifth, center fielder Nolan Brown has turned in a .293 batting average, three home runs, 35 ribbies, 26 stolen bases in 28 attempts and 49 runs.
Sophomore first baseman Luken Baker, the 2016 Big 12 Freshman of the Year, hasn't played since mid-May. At the time of his injury, Baker was slashing .317/.454/.529 with eight home runs and 41 RBI through 47 games.
Juniors Connor Wanhanen (.273-0-14) and Michael Landestoy (.200-1-6) have filled in at first during Baker's absence.
Completing the starting lineup are senior third baseman Elliott Barzilli (.243-6-30), sophomore left fielder Josh Watson (.239-1-36) and senior shortstop Ryan Merrill (.243-5-40, 17 stolen bases).
TCU's 3.99 ERA is the highest among the eight teams in Omaha.
Senior right-hander Brian Howard (11-3, 3.95) has compiled a 5-0 career record in NCAA Tournament play, and is the first pitcher in school history to record 10 or more wins in back-to-back seasons. A first-team All-Big 12 honoree, Howard was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the eighth round.
Sophomore right-hander Jared Janczak (9-0, 1.67) has been limited to 13 starts after missing time with a shoulder injury. He has held the opposition to one home run and a .164 batting average through 82.1 innings. Drawing the start in Game 1 of the Super Regional, Janczak allowed two runs (both earned) on five hits through 6.1 innings, while striking out 10 and walking one.
Freshman left-hander Nick Lodolo (5-1, 4.28, 14 starts) and senior righty Mitchell Traver (4-1, 3.79, 11 starts) finish out the rotation.
Sophomore right-hander Sean Wymer (5-4, 2.37), the winning pitcher in Game 1 of the Super Regional, has helped stabilize the bullpen. A first-team All-Conference performer, Wymer has toiled 49.1 innings in 28 appearances.
Sophomore righty Durbin Feltman (2-2, 3.90) leads the nation in saves with 17.