Winkler Comes Through For Horned Frogs
May 22, 2009
FORT WORTH, Texas -- TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle's faith in rising star Kyle Winkler is obvious.
The Frogs sent Winkler to the mound Thursday afternoon in the Concoco Mountain West Conference Tournament to save their hopes. Facing elimination on their home field, Winkler showed why the Frogs and Schlossnagle are thrilled about his future.
Winkler, a hard-throwing right-hander, earned his first career complete game in a 9-2 victory to stave off elimination against BYU. Over the last month, Winkler has been TCU's most impressive starter and now the one Schlossnagle leans on most.
Next week in the NCAA Regionals, Schlossnagle could turn to Winkler in a big role again as the Frogs opening-game starter. He has already proven he can handle the pressure of the moment. With little margin for error and needing to save the Frogs bullpen if they are to fight through the loser's bracket, Winkler rose to the occassion.
"Being a freshman coach expects a lot of me and I expect a lot out of myself," Winkler said. "I didn't want to be too high or too low for the game."
Winkler moved to 6-0 with the victory and lowered his earned-run average to 4.33. He has 42 strikeouts in 60 innings this season and showed improvement with his control. Winkler leads the staff in walks but didn't allow one against BYU.
"He's probably been our most consistent starting pitcher in the last three to four weeks," Schlossnagle said.
Winkler, who is 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, came to TCU with impressive credentials as a hard-throwing Houston area prospect from Fort Bend Kempner. As a dominating strikeout pitcher in high school and gem of the Frogs fresman class, Winkler was accustomed to double-digit strikeout totals and was the District 23-5A most valuable player last year.
With his electric arm, 94 mph fastball and slider, Winkler was used to blowing away high school hitters. But his transition to the collegiate level took some adjusting. Most high school hitters couldn't catch up with his fastball at the belt, while college hitters did.
"In the first half of the season I think he was questioning himself a little bit," Schlossnagle said. "He dealt with it and made the adjustments and now he is reaping the benefits."
Helping his development was the addition of a sinker three weeks ago by pitching coach Randy Mazey.
Like with most talented high school prospects, the lure of Major League Baseball was also a possibility. His desire was to play for TCU but he was drafted in the 37th round by the Milwaukee Brewers. Winkler turned down the Brewers, who were interested in signing him all the way to the Aug. 15 deadline.
Winkler, a member of the 2006 USA Youth National team, has been the needed lift for an revolving rotation. But after his impressive outing against BYU, it appears the Frogs have found their go-to starter.
"It begins and ends with starting pitching," Schlossnagle said. "He has a chance to be a special pitcher."