The Horned Frog faithful must be overjoyed at the talent that sits atop their pitching staff. That talent presented itself in grand fashion this weekend, overpowering the Jacksonville lineup and even that of Northern Colorado this Monday. What is that talent comprised of? Well, for starters (and I mean that quite literally), TCU boasts one of the premier 1-2 punches in the country in Brandon Finnegan and Preston Morrison, while showcasing a lock-down bullpen anchored by the flamethrowing Riley Ferrell.
Although Morrison is typically seen as more of a proven Friday night starter due to his experience, groundball approach, and poise on the mound, TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle decided to go with Finnegan in the season opener, figuring his power approach would serve as the tone setter on Friday nights.
And boy was Schlossnagle correct in his decision. From the moment he took the mound in the first inning, Finnegan was aggressive and poised. He struck out eight of the first nine batters he faced, seven of which came in succession, maintaining mid-90s velocity on his heater until the middle innings of his outing – wherein he would drop his velocity to the low-90s as means to reach back for added strength later in the outing if needed.
He displayed an improved slider, a pitch he worked on over the summer with the help of Team USA teammate Carlos Rodon, which he worked in the 83-85 mph range with solid depth. Like his fastball, Finnegan was able to pound the zone with his slider rather nicely.
On the night, Finnegan registered seven scoreless innings of three-hit ball, walking three batters and striking out an impressive 13 batters in the process. Finnegan displayed an aggressive confidence on the mound, wherein he was able to hold his emotions in check and in turn control his pitches. He displayed an ability to combine his power stuff with the ability to command his pitches in the strike zone with relative ease – wherein that pitch command is something that has given fellow rotation mate Preston Morrison much success in his first two seasons.
Morrison turned in an impressive outing of his own on Saturday, working eight scoreless innings on just four hits, while walking just one and striking out five batters en route to the 5-1 victory for the Horned Frogs.
The southpaw submariner was crafty, pounding in and around the zone with his heavy-handed sinker and an effective front-door slider with impressive sweeping action against a right-handed dominant Jacksonville lineup.
Rounding out the weekend rotation, freshman right-hander Tyler Alexander turned in a solid college debut on Sunday, surrendering just one run while walking just one and striking out two over 4 2/3 innings, despite earning the loss in TCU’s 2-0 loss.
Jordan Kipper, a junior transfer out of Central Arizona College, turned in a strong outing in his TCU debut on Monday, hurling six innings of three-run ball (two unearned), while striking out eight and surrendering no walks.
TCU should be feeling optimistic following the outings turned in by both of their newcomers, as both displayed strong command and an ability to remain as reliable rotational options as the season trails onward.
With Finnegan and Morrison at the helm of the rotation, along with a reliable supporting cast of newcomers and a talented bullpen (which has surrendered just one earned run in 10 1/3 innings this season) led by Riley Ferrell, the Horned Frogs should be more than confident with the state of their pitching moving forward.