TCU’s season comes to end thanks to an old friend

Posted Sunday, May. 26, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Big 12 tournament (at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, Oklahoma City) Saturday’s results Texas Tech 8, Baylor 2 Oklahoma 7, Kansas State 6 (11) West Virginia 6, Oklahoma St. 5 (10) Kansas vs. TCU, late Sunday’s game Championship Oklahoma vs. Kansas, 1 p.m.

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For the first time since 2003, TCU won’t be playing baseball in June.

And a familiar face helped do the Horned Frogs in.

TCU needed to win the Big 12 tournament this week to earn its 10th consecutive NCAA Tournament berth under coach Jim Schlossnagle. But a 10-3 loss to West Virginia on Friday night and the Mountaineers’ comeback victory over Oklahoma State on Saturday afternoon eliminated the Horned Frogs from contention.

TCU played Kansas late Saturday night at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark with a chance to finish 2-1 in its pool-play bracket with a win.

But Kansas (34-24) defeated TCU 4-0 to advance to play Oklahoma (39-19) in the tournament championship at 1 p.m. Sunday. A TCU victory would have left three teams — TCU, KU and WVU — tied at 2-1.

“It’s definitely not the way we wanted it to end,” TCU senior Jantzen Witte said.

In a three-way tie, the highest-seeded team advances to the title game. In that scenario, West Virginia, the tournament’s No. 3 seed, would advance to the tournament final. TCU (29-28) was shut out for the seventh time in 2013 — a fitting end for a season filled with offensive struggles for the Frogs.

West Virginia coach Randy Mazey, who was Schlossnagle’s top assistant the past six seasons when the Frogs reached three Super Regionals and the College World Series in 2010, was rooting for his former team to force a three-way tie Saturday night.

The Frogs had to root against Mazey’s Mountaineers against OSU earlier in the day. An OSU victory would have opened the door to TCU advancing to the title game with a win against Kansas. Before the season, WVU was picked to finish last in the conference by league coaches.

“I think every time we play a conference game we go out there to prove something,” Mazey said. “There’s no better motivation than everybody on the other side of the field thinking you’re the worst team in the league. The way we’ve played, I think we’ve proven we’re not the worst team in the league.”

The prospect of rooting against Mazey wasn’t easy for Schlossnagle. The two have been close friends for more than 20 years.

TCU’s struggles started long before the Big 12 tournament began. The team started 0-6 against two top 20 teams in Ole Miss and Cal State Fullerton. TCU’s offense sputtered out of the gate and never fully flourished, although it was much improved the last month of the season.

Offensive consistency never arrived for key components in the Frogs’ lineup. Slugger Kevin Cron, who was a freshman All-America in 2012, finished the season batting .208 with 20 RBIs. He started 50 of the Frogs’ 55 games, but didn’t start Saturday after going 1 for 8 in the first two tournament games. Derek Odell and Jerrick Suiter, two other key bats that helped TCU reach the Super Regionals in 2012, also never found consistent grooves. Odell has improved in the final month, but still finished batting below .250. Suiter finished below .200 with just 10 RBIs. In 2012, Cron hit .338 with 34 RBIs and Suiter hit .310 with 20 RBIs.

“It was very similar to a lot of games we’ve played this year,” said Jim Schlossnagle, whose team finished the season Saturday with six hits, all singles. “We haven’t been a good offensive team or we didn’t get the big hit. This was not up to our standards.”

TCU’s two strengths — pitching and defense — were tops in the Big 12, but with little run support during the first two months of the season every mistake was amplified. The Frogs ranked 23rd nationally in fielding percentage entering this week’s tournament. But even the defense failed them Friday as the Frogs set a Big 12 tournament record with nine errors.

Stefan Stevenson 817-390-7760 Twitter: @FollowtheFrogs

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