TCU welcomes desperate Texas back to campus after 17-year absence

Posted Wednesday, May. 15, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Texas at TCU (at Lupton Stadium) Game 1: TCU RHP Preston Morrison (6-3) vs. RHP Parker French (4-4) , 6:30 p.m. Thursday Game 2: TCU LHP Brandon Finnegan (0-7) vs. LHP Dillon Peters (6-3), 6:30 p.m. Friday Game 3: TCU TBA vs. RHP Nathan Thornhill (2-6), 3:30 p.m. Saturday Records: TCU 26-25, 10-11 in Big 12; Texas 26-22, 6-15 TV: FSSW Plus (Thursday, Saturday), FSN (Friday); Radio: KTCU/88.7 FM

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It has been 17 years since the Texas Longhorns baseball team played a game in Fort Worth.

And Texas couldn’t be returning with more on the line than what’s at stake in the regular-season series finale against TCU at Lupton Stadium, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

The last-place Longhorns (26-22, 6-15 in the Big 12) trail Texas Tech (23-26, 7-14) by a game. The last-place team doesn’t advance to the Big 12 tournament, effectively ending that team’s season. The Red Raiders host Baylor (26-23, 11-9) for three games beginning Thursday. Finishing tied with Tech isn’t good enough for Texas, which lost two of three games to the Red Raiders in March.

TCU (26-25, 10-11) could finish as high as second place in the conference with a sweep of Texas, a remarkable feat considering the Horned Frogs’ struggles the first half of the season. But with a berth in the Big 12 tournament secure, coach Jim Schlossnagle isn’t going to treat the series as a must-win situation, although winning is very much the goal.

The one difference will be the use of pitchers, including Thursday’s starter Preston Morrison and Friday’s starter Brandon Finnegan. Neither will go too deep, despite the status of the game. Saturday’s pitcher is still unknown.

Schlossnagle said he’ll wait to see which opponent the Frogs are likely to see in Wednesday’s tournament opener in Oklahoma City before determining the starter.

“I think we’ve got to be conscious of Morrison and Finnegan,” he said. “I don’t think the first two games matter as much as the third game where we have to be careful how we manage that game. I’m not going to stretch Preston or Brandon out because [they’re] going to have to pitch on one less day of rest.”

Still, the Longhorns’ first visit to Lupton Stadium (which opened in 2003) and first visit to the TCU campus since the Southwest Conference dissolved in 1996 is an exciting prospect for longtime Frogs alumni.

Texas, despite its troubles the past two seasons (the ’Horns failed to earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament last year for the first time since 1998), still has an imposing pitching staff, which leads the league with a 2.48 ERA in conference play. TCU is second with a 2.77 ERA and the Frogs’ 2.53 ERA for the entire season tops the league.

Although TCU’s players were toddlers the last time Texas played in Fort Worth, the meaning of playing the Longhorns isn’t lost on them. Texas owns a 14-8 advantage in the 22 meetings since 1996, including two three-game Super Regional series in 2009 and 2010 in Austin. TCU won the latter to earn its first and only College World Series berth. That’s the last time the teams have met. They met at Rangers Ballpark from 1997 to ’99 and in 2001.

Since 2000, the Longhorns have been to seven College World Series and won national championships in 2002 and 2005. Texas coach Augie Garrido was unavailable for this story.

“I don’t know how much that means to our team. It doesn’t mean that much because we’re in the same league, it’s just a conference game [to them],” Schlossnagle said. “But we’d be foolish to think it doesn’t matter to the people who have been here a long time. That’s the flagship university of the state of Texas, so to have them on campus is a long time coming.”

Stefan Stevenson 817-390-7760 Twitter: @FollowtheFrogs

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