Battles, No. 1 Arkansas set to host NJIT in tournament opener

Local athletes to watch in the upcoming NCAA Division I baseball tournament:

Jordan Battles, Arkansas

Junior shortstop from Madison. Made some eye-popping defensive plays in combination with second baseman Robert Moore to lead the No. 1-ranked Razorbacks to the SEC regular season and tournament titles.

Schedule: Arkansas, the top overall seed in the 64-team tournament, will open at home Friday at 2 p.m. in the Fayetteville Regional against the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Others in the regional: Nebraska and Northeastern. If Arkansas survives opening weekend, it would host a Super Regional against the winner of the Louisiana Tech-hosted Ruston Regional.

Luke Boyers, TCU

Freshman outfielder from Boerne Champion. Helped lead the Horned Frogs to a share of the Big 12 regular-season, co-championship and also the tournament title at Oklahoma City. Hit .303 for the Frogs in 43 games in his first year out of high school at Champion, where he also excelled as a quarterback.

Porter Brown, TCU

Third-year freshman outfielder from Reagan. Bounced back from injuries to spark TCU to the Big 12 tournament title. Named as the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after producing nine hits in 20 at bats (in five games) for a .450 average. In his last seven games, Brown is 14 for 28 at the plate (.500) as the Frogs’ leadoff man. He’s got 12 RBIs and has scored a dozen runs in that span.

Schedule: TCU, the No. 6 overall seed, will open at home Friday at 6 p.m. in the Fort Worth Regional against McNeese State. Others in the regional: Oregon State and Dallas Baptist. If TCU survives, it would host a Super Regional against the winner of the Old Dominion-hosted Norfolk Regional.

Douglas Hodo III, Texas

Second-year freshman from Boerne High School. Hodo stepped in to become a key contributor for the Longhorns after upper-classman Austin Todd was lost for the season with an injury. He played right field for the Big 12 regular-season co-champions. Played 54 games and started 52 for a team ranked in the Top 10 for most of the season. Hit .289 with eight doubles, five homers and 38 RBIs.

Schedule: Texas, the No. 2 overall seed, will open at home Friday at 1 p.m. against Southern University of Baton Rouge, La. Others in the regional: Arizona State and Fairfield. If Texas survives, it would host a Super Regional against the winner of the Florida-hosted Gainesville Regional.

Jace Jung, Texas Tech

Second-year freshman from MacArthur was the Big 12 player of the year. One of the most dangerous left-handed hitters in the nation. Hit .345 with 20 home runs and 65 RBIs. He’s tied for fifth in the nation in homers and tied for third in RBIs. Plays second base for the Red Raiders.

Connor Queen, Texas Tech

Senior pitcher from Boerne High School. The 6-foot-1, 220 pounder has pitched for Texas Tech in both the 2018 and 2019 NCAA tournaments, including the College World Series both years. This year, he’s fashioned a 3.86 ERA in 16 appearances.

Schedule: Texas Tech, the No. 8 overall seed, will open at home Friday at 11 a.m. against Army. Others in the regional: UCLA and North Carolina. If Texas Tech survives, it would host the winner of the Stanford-hosted Palo Alto Regional.

Former Flying Chanclas spark TCU’s 2-1 victory over Texas

Two former Flying Chanclas de San Antonio were flying high in Fort Worth on Saturday afternoon.

With Porter Brown producing a two-RBI single and left-hander Austin Krob surviving some shaky moments to emerge as the winning pitcher, the third-ranked TCU Horned Frogs protected their lead in the Big 12 baseball race with a 2-1 victory over the Texas Longhorns.

Both Brown and Krob played in San Antonio last summer with the Flying Chanclas, a first-time entry in the wood-bat Texas Collegiate League.

Playing on a bigger stage Saturday, both helped lift the Frogs one step closer to a conference regular-season championship.

In the second inning, Brown hit a two-out single up the middle off Texas starter Tristan Stevens to score Tommy Sacco and Elijah Nunez.

Brown is a redshirt freshman from Reagan High School. He finished 2 for 4 at the plate to increase his batting average to .359. He also hiked his RBI total to 17 in 25 games played.

Krob, a sophomore from Lisbon, Iowa, ran his win-loss record to 7-0. He worked 5 and 2/3 innings and allowed one run on six hits. Krob walked four and struck out three.

Marcelo Perez and Haylen Green each pitched 1 and 2/3 innings of scoreless relief to nail down the victory.

If the Longhorns come up short in the title race, they may look back on three base-running issues in Saturday’s game, one in each of the first three innings.

In the first, Zach Zubia was thrown out by a wide margin as he tried to go first-to-third on a single to right field. In the second inning, Cam Williams was on third base and strayed too far off the bag on a chopper back to the mound. He was caught in a run-down and tagged out.

In the third, Texas had a rally going and scored its only run of the game on a play that started with Texas runners on first and second and a fly ball to center. It ended on an error, an errant throw that came in from Nunez in center and allowed Mike Antico to race all the way around from second to score.

But on the next play, the Longhorns helped kill the rally when Mitchell Daly was caught in a run-down between second and third base.

Records

TCU 34-11, 16-4
Texas 37-12, 14-6

Notable

Marcelo Perez, from Laredo, was also a member of the Flying Chanclas last summer. On Saturday, he allowed one hit and no runs in 1 and 2/3 innings. A big moment came in the sixth when he struck out Texas’ Trey Faltine to end the inning with two runners on base. Both Krob and Perez worked under Flying Chanclas pitching coach Calvin Schiraldi, a former star at Texas in the early 1980s.

Brown sat out most of last summer’s games with an injury. Nevertheless, he had drawn the praise of manager John McLaren after getting off to a hot start as a hitter. Brown has spent some time on the bench with the talented Horned Frogs this season, including Friday’s series opener against Texas.

Out of TCU’s 44 games, he has played in 25, with 16 starts. But when he has played, he has produced, driving in 17 runs and hitting for a .359 batting average.

Finger fracture sidelines Chanclas’ standout Porter Brown

The Flying Chanclas' Porter Brown had two hits Sunday at Wolff Stadium and is batting .400 after the first six games of the season. - photo by Joe Alexander

Outfielder Porter Brown is out for the season with a broken finger, Flying Chanclas manager John McLaren said Tuesday. The injury was revealed in an X-ray on Monday. – photo by Joe Alexander

Just when the Flying Chanclas de San Antonio seemed to pick up some momentum in their first season in the Texas Collegiate League, they’ve run into a rough patch of misfortune.

Manager John McLaren said Tuesday that outfielder Porter Brown, the team’s leading hitter, has been lost for the season with a broken finger. Also, third baseman Conner Shepherd is expected to miss at least a week, also with a finger injury.

McLaren delivered the news in a telephone interview just hours before the Chanclas, riding a four-game winning streak, were scheduled to play a road game in Louisiana against the Acadiana Cane Cutters. The game has since been canceled because of unfavorable field conditions.

Both players apparently suffered the injuries when they were hit by pitches. Brown’s incident happened last Wednesday in Game 2 of the season at Amarillo. Shepherd had to come out of Sunday’s home series finale against Acadiana.

McLaren said the diagnosis on both TCU scholarship players came on Monday when the two went in for X-rays.

Going into the exams, McLaren thought Shepherd’s hand injury was more serious and that Brown was just sore. But it turned out to be the other way around.

Brown, a former Reagan High School standout, said in a text message to The JB Replay that the fracture was on his right-hand pinky finger. He had played in all six games and was leading the team with a .375 average.

“He’s a tough kid,” McLaren said. “I asked him every day how he was feeling. He said, ‘I’m good skip. I’m ready to go.’ The way he was swinging the bat, he wasn’t favoring it at all … You’d have never known anything was wrong with him.”

As the Chanclas open a series in Louisiana, starting a stretch in which they play six of the next eight on the road, they’re expected to transition infielders Leyton Barry and Lee Thomas into left field, where Brown was playing.

“We’ll mix some guys in there at third base (to replace Shepherd),” McLaren said. “We got some versatility. So, we’re going to utilize it. We’ll try to mix some guys into different positions.”

After losing two straight to open the season, the Chanclas defeated Amarillo on the road last Thursday, and then followed by sweeping three games at home from the Cane Cutters.

Flying Chanclas de San Antonio reliever Arturo Guarardo from UTSA pitches against the Acadiana Cane Cutters on Sunday, July 5, 2020, at Wolff Stadium. - photo by Joe Alexander

Reliever Arturo Guajardo delivers a pitch against the Acadiana Cane Cutters on Sunday at Wolff Stadium. He struck out six in 2 and 2/3 innings. The Chanclas’ bullpen has helped spark the team’s four-game winning streak. – photo by Joe Alexander

Even though the weather has been hot and humid, McLaren said his team has held up well in the early going of the 30-game season.

“We’re fine,” McLaren said. “We got a good group of kids and we got a lot of enthusiasm. There’s days that we hit (indoors) in the cage when it’s hot, and taking infield. We’re doing our best to monitor the situation as we go on.”

Pitching out of the bullpen has been a strength of the team during the winning streak, with the Chanclas getting solid performances from Tyler Flores, Kobe Jaramillo, Matthew Sesler, Connor Schmidt and Arturo Guajardo.

“We’re still sorting things out (on the pitching staff), trying to get everybody a role,” McLaren said. “We’ll see where we are, see if we need to flip some guys from starting to relieving. I’ve been very happy with the way the guys have been throwing. It seems like they’re getting better every time out, getting more relaxed.

“That’s a big part of it, for them to feel comfortable.”

Coming up

San Antonio (4-2) at Acadiana (1-5), Wednesday at 7:05 p.m.

Brown embraces homecoming opportunity with the Chanclas

TCU outfielder Porter Brown hopes to show off his versatility this summer with the Flying Chanclas de San Antonio. — Photo by Gregg Ellman, TCU athletics

Porter Brown attends Texas Christian University as an undergraduate student in neuroscience. He is a young man with high hopes of one day becoming a doctor, possibly an orthopedic surgeon.

In addition, Brown also plays baseball, a sport in which he may already have earned enough credits to enter the school of hard luck.

It’s true. After sparking San Antonio Reagan to two straight UIL state tournaments, Brown’s career on the diamond has been stalled the past few years by misfortune.

In 2019, he emerged in his first season as a collegian to snag a spot in the starting lineup at TCU, one of the top programs in the nation.

But after hitting .278 and stealing seven bases in eight attempts, the speedster went down with a shoulder injury that knocked him out for the year.

Just as Brown got healthy, adversity emerged again, like a bad hop on a bumpy infield.

The Horned Frogs were off to a fast start in March when the coronavirus pandemic hit, shutting down operations at TCU’s Lupton Stadium, along with just about every aspect of sports and life in America.

Trying his best to shrug it all off, Brown stayed calm, focusing in the ensuing months on what he could control.

Now he’s set to resume his career this summer with the Flying Chanclas de San Antonio in the Texas Collegiate League.

“Growing up in San Antonio, I’ve always watched the Missions and the Flying Chanclas,” Brown said. “When my coach (at TCU) called and told me I had an opportunity to play in my city, in my hometown, I was grateful and excited. I’m excited for baseball to start up in the summer league.”

Brown is scheduled to report to the Chanclas, based at Wolff Stadium, on Tuesday.

The season opener is set for June 30 in Amarillo, and then he and his teammates will open in front of the home fans on July 3 against Acadiana, a ball club based in Lafayette, La.

Even though Brown brings only modest credentials from his star-crossed TCU career to the TCL, he may immediately emerge as a player to watch, especially when fans witness his speed.

For fans who have never seen him accelerate from first to second base on a steal attempt, they can ask Reagan coach Chans Chapman for verification of his ability.

“I think the thing that jumps out at you is the way he runs,” Chapman said. “I mean, he’s one of the fastest guys, as far as baseball speed, that I’ve ever been around. Like I said, he’s a very dynamic player. I mean, he can hit. He runs the bases well. He’s good defensively.

“You know, he can change the game. He can affect the game in so many ways.”

Ever since he donned a uniform and suited up at McAllister Park Little League as a 10-year-old, Brown has played with joy and enthusiasm.

He’s played for his teammates. But this summer, the season is also about opportunity.

A year from now, he’ll be eligible for the Major League Baseball draft. And because he’s only played a combined 29 games at TCU during the past two springs, Brown knows he needs to turn it on.

He is a strong student academically at TCU, one who might one day wield a surgeon’s knife. But Brown also wants to find out whether he is good enough to swing a bat in the pros.

Asked about his big-picture dream in baseball, Brown paused and answered carefully.

“Right now, my dreams are smaller,” he said. “One pitch at a time. One game at a time. One summer league at a time, is really what matters. Once I get to the future, I’ll worry about that then.”

Brown was a dynamo at Reagan, batting .360 and .385 in his last two seasons, respectively. Over those two years, he smacked 18 doubles and stole 55 bases, including 29 steals in 31 attempts as a senior.

In the past few weeks, Chapman has watched Brown take batting practice at Reagan. As Brown battered balls to the fence and beyond, the coach marveled at the way his former player has changed physically since 2018.

“You could tell that getting bigger and stronger has helped him, just the way the ball comes off the bat now,” the coach said. “That’s not to say it didn’t … when he was in high school, but (after) two years in a college weightlifting program, it does come off different.”

At TCU, fans have yet to see Brown’s full potential. He played only 16 games in 2019 when he hurt his shoulder.

This year, he was batting .189 in 13 of TCU’s 15 games when it all came to a stop, with the COVID-19 threat eventually ending the season.

Regardless, Brown remains as a prospect. He was scheduled to play in the highly-regarded Cape Cod summer league before it, too, was canceled.

TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said it’s evident that his outfielder’s progress has been slowed by the circumstances.

“Porter is an outstanding young man with an incredible amount of potential both on the field and off,” Schlossnagle said. “When he is at his best and healthy, he is a dynamic offensive player and a very capable defender in the outfield.

“He has had to overcome some injury and, like the rest of our players, the COVID pandemic has stunted his development. (But) he is a supreme worker, incredibly intelligent and very self aware.”

Brown also is grateful, happy to have the chance to play at home this summer.

“I am happy to be back,” he said.

Flying Chanclas roster

Pitchers

Jaime Ramirez Jr., RH, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
Johnny Panatex, RH, St. Mary’s
Connor Schmidt, RH, St. Mary’s
Marcelo Perez, RH, TCU
Austin Krob, LH, Mississippi State
Kobe Jaramillo, RH, UTSA

The Flying Chanclas of the Texas Collegiate League are scheduled to play their home opener on July 3. All home games are set for Wolff Stadium. — Photo by Jerry Briggs

Catchers

Tyler LaRue, Rice, Grayson College
Nick Wolff, UTSA.

Outfielders

Kyte McDonald, Mississippi State
Jordan Thompson, Grayson College, committed to Texas A&M
Porter Brown, TCU

Infielders

Johnny Hernandez, St. Mary’s
Grant Smith, Incarnate Word
Ryan Flores, Incarnate Word
Lee Thomas, Incarnate Word
Conner Shepherd, TCU
Leyton Barry, UTSA
Garrett Poston, UTSA

From San Antonio-area high schools

OF Porter Brown, Reagan; OF Kyte McDonald, Antonian; OF Jordan Thompson, Boerne Champion; P Jaime Ramirez, Jr., Holy Cross; C Tyler LaRue, Blanco; P Connor Schmidt, Devine.