Holaday, TCU focused on big picture
Horned Frogs look to catcher to avoid repeat of last season's MWC tournament failure
TCU catcher Bryan Holaday has been effective at the plate with his bat and at protecting the plate with his glove, but it's what he's doing behind the plate with his head that has made a difference this season for the Horned Frogs.
Holaday has caught 19 of 37 would-be base stealers this season and is just shy of the team lead in fielding percentage. On offense, his consistent .360 batting average has steadied a young order through several hiccups this season.
But it's the senior's work with freshman phenom Matt Purke and his steadying influence on offense that has coach Jim Schlossnagle believing that his catcher should have won the conference MVP award as the top-seeded Horned Frogs (43-11, 19-5) begin Mountain West tournament play Wednesday.
"You take him off our team, and we're not even close to being the same club," said Schlossnagle, who was named the MWC coach of the year for the fifth consecutive season Monday. "He brings so much to the table other than just his numbers that I think he's deserving of being the MVP."
Utah catcher/first baseman C.J. Cron was named MWC player of the year, while TCU pitcher Steve Maxwell was pitcher of the year and Purke was freshman of the year.
And Holaday, one of nine TCU players named to the conference's first team, was a large part of the Horned Frogs' success during the regular season. He led them in hits, was second in runs scored and doubles, and was third in home runs, total bases and walks.
The Horned Frogs are ranked eighth in the latest USA Today/ESPN Top 25 coaches poll.
Holaday hopes his season is far from over, as the top-seeded Frogs got a rude awakening last year when they were eliminated in the MWC tournament by eventual champion Utah.
"We got embarrassed on our home field by Utah, and we're going into [this year's tournament] with an edge," Holaday said. "We plan on winning a couple games in a row."
Last year, TCU opened the MWC tournament with a 9-7 loss to the Utes, the sixth and lowest seed. The Frogs rebounded to throttle BYU 9-2 before being ousted by Utah 6-4.
Schlossnagle said his team came out flat last year, and he vowed it wouldn't happen again.
"I'm expecting us to play with a lot more passion and energy than we did last year," Schlossnagle said. "For whatever reason, we didn't perform the way we were capable of on our own field, and I think that's been a thorn in our side ever since."
Holaday, who went 4-for-11 with 1 run and 3 RBIs in the 2009 tournament, said this year's Frogs would not underestimate the field.
"We know all these teams are good teams and they're tough to beat in a tournament," Holaday said. "So we got to go play good defense and let our pitching just do its thing. I know the offense will be there."
TCU has another tough test in front of them. No. 2 seed New Mexico (35-18 record overall, 14-8 in Mountain West) has been in and out of the top 25 all season, and host San Diego State (28-26, 13-11), the No. 3 seed, relies on a solid veteran pitching staff.
"Conference tournaments and [NCAA] regionals and that sort of thing are largely about momentum," Schlossnagle said. "It's a new season and you start 0-0, so you have to go there with a lot of motivation.
"We have to go out to San Diego and stay focused on baseball because there are a lot of distractions out there. We need to treat this like a business trip, not a vacation."
So Schlossnagle will again call on Holaday's leadership.
"He's the hardest-working guy on our team, and everyone just feeds off his energy," senior reliever Tyler Lockwood said. "He always comes to play, and it just helps a team get after it."
Holaday is just hoping to make a few more memories before his TCU career comes to a close.
"I wish I had more time," Holaday said. "I wish I had more of this season left and, I wish, another year. I'm going to miss it."
Josh Davis is an ESPNDallas.com intern and a writer for TCU's student newspaper, the Daily Skiff.