Looking for another series victory in Big 12 play, the No. 7 Texas Longhorns (22-9, 3-3 Big 12) host the No. 23 TCU Horned Frogs (20-9, 6-3 Big 12) this weekend at UFCU Disch-Falk Field in a three-game set that could prove pivotal to the hopes of winning the regular-season conference for head coach David Pierce’s team.
Texas enters the series even in conference after a 2-1 series loss to Texas Tech and a 2-1 series victory over Oklahoma in Arlington. TCU enters its fourth week of conference play after a 2-1 series win over Baylor, a sweep of Kansas State, and a 2-1 series loss to West Virginia in Fort Worth.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s the first time the Horns have met the Horned Frogs in Austin since 2018, when Texas used a regular season-ending series sweep to claim the Big 12 regular-season title. Last season, a seven-inning performance from left-hander Pete Hansen helped the Longhorns pull out a Sunday win to claim the series in Fort Worth.
TCU isn’t a particularly good team at the plate, hitting .272 overall, good for fourth in the Big 12, but the Horned Frogs are disciplined, sitting fourth nationally with 190 walks, a trait that will test the command of the Longhorns pitching staff, particularly the bullpen. With 22 home runs, TCU doesn’t have a ton of power, either, with first baseman David Bishop and third baseman Brayden Taylor tied for the team lead with five apiece. Bishop is second on the team in batting average at .327 and has reached safely in all 28 games he’s played this season, while Taylor leads the nation with 35 walks.
The Friday starter for the Horned Frogs, right-hander Riley Cornelio, has a 1.35 ERA in conference play, including allowing one run on two hits with eight strikeouts over six innings against the Mountaineers last week. Meanwhile, Saturday’s starter, right-hander Marcelo Perez, is making his first career start. All 44 previous appearances for the fourth-year junior have come out of the bullpen, where he has a career ERA of 3.66. Perez did pitch 6.2 innings last week against West Virginia, so he has already proven that he can stretch out his arm, totaling 93 pitches in that game. If TCU leads late in the game, closer River Ridings has eight saves this season and a 2.38 ERA, but has allowed opponents to hit .304 against him.
Probable pitching matchups
FRIDAY – Texas LHP Pete Hansen (5-0, 2.51) vs. TCU RHP Riley Cornelio (3-1, 3.10)
SATURDAY – Texas RHP Tristan Stevens (4-2, 3.16) vs. TCU RHP Marcelo Perez (2-1, 2.16)
SUNDAY – Texas LHP Lucas Gordon (2-1, 2.53) vs. TCU RHP Brett Walker (3-1, 4.89)
First pitch on Friday is at 6:30 p.m. Central, followed by a 5 p.m. Central contest on Saturday and a 12 p.m. Central matchup on Sunday. Longhorn Network will carry Friday’s game, with ESPNU picking up the Saturday and Sunday contests.