Kick in the pants could serve TCU baseball well in postseason

Posted Sunday, May. 18, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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Big 12 tournament

(Wednesday-Sunday, Oklahoma City)

Wednesday’s first-round games:

• No. 3 Kansas vs. No. 6 West Virginia, 9 a.m.

• No. 2 TCU vs. No. 7 Baylor, 12:30 p.m.

• No. 1 Oklahoma St. vs. No. 8 Oklahoma, 4 p.m.

• No. 4 Texas Tech vs. No. 5 Texas, 7:30 p.m.

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TCU had just won Friday night to even its series with Baylor. The Horned Frogs’ dugout was deathly quiet, however. Coach Jim Schlossnagle had just let his thoughts be known. And he wasn’t happy.

The offense had fallen back into some old habits the past two games, letting opportunities for victory slip by in the series opener on Thursday and then required a Preston Morrison pitching masterpiece in Game 2 to overcome many missed chances to break open a tight game.

“Coach didn’t feel like we prepared properly and it showed later on,” TCU’s Derek Odell said. “I just think we were all annoyed we didn’t get the conference championship.”

Indeed, TCU looked like a disappointed team on Friday. Oklahoma State had clinched the top seed in the Big 12 tournament, which starts on Wednesday at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City.

The No. 2-seeded Frogs (38-15, 17-7 in Big 12) open against No. 7 seed Baylor (24-29, 8-15) at 12:30 p.m. The TCU/Baylor winner plays the winner between third-seeded Kansas and sixth-seeded West Virginia at 4 p.m. Thursday. The tournament is double elimination.

Top seed OSU (41-14, 18-6) opens against No. 8 seed Oklahoma (28-27, 8-16) at 4 p.m. Wednesday. That winner advances to play the winner between Texas Tech and Texas, which open the tournament at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

Before getting on the bus to leave Fort Worth for the regular-season finale at Baylor on Saturday, Schlossnagle held a quick meeting to remind his team how it managed to play so well the last month and a half. It was a refresher on being selective at the plate, locating good pitches and hitting them hard back through the middle.

Too often during the first two games at Baylor, TCU hitters popped up or flew out, leaving a combined 24 runners on base.

“We changed some things up in batting practice [Saturday] just to remind the team who we are and who we need to be,” Schlossnagle said after TCU won the regular-season finale and finished the season winning 23 of its last 26 games.

Having the Big 12 regular-season title slip away and offering at times lackluster performances at the plate with so much on the line, though, gave Schlossnagle the impetus to give his team a quick kick in the pants as a reminder before the postseason begins.

“No doubt,” shortstop Keaton Jones said. “It definitely showed us that we just need to keep playing good baseball and do the little things. I think we kind of got away from our [approach]. [Saturday] we got back to it. [Finishing second] is what it is. So we want to go out and win the conference tournament and show the Big 12 who the best team is and then go win us a title.”

With a strong performance at the Big 12 tournament, which runs through Saturday, plus on Sunday if a playback game is necessary to decide the champion, TCU will assure itself of an NCAA Regional hosting bid at Lupton Stadium.

If the Frogs were to win the Big 12 tournament, there’s still a chance TCU could earn its first-ever national seed, which goes to the top eight seeds in the country. Those eight teams get to host Super Regionals if they advance.

On Sunday evening, TCU ranked 14th in the latest ratings percentage index rankings by Boydsworld.com. The RPI helps the NCAA selection committee seed the 64-team postseason bracket and decide who gets to host.

Texas Tech ranks higher with a No. 11 RPI, but the Red Raiders finished fourth in the league, which makes them unlikely to host. Texas ranks No. 15 in the RPI, but they finished fifth in the Big 12.

The disappointment of not winning the regular-season title has now been replaced by the desire to keep rolling in the postseason with what got them here.

“Absolutely,” TCU designated hitter Jerrick Suiter said. “We’re all locked in, ready to play in the conference tournament and see where it goes from there.”

Stefan Stevenson 817-390-7760 Twitter: @StevensonFWST

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