June 20, 2014

TCU’s baseball heroes gave us one to remember

10 years ago, Frogs’ coach imagined the drama; it came true.

When Jim Schlossnagle left Las Vegas for Fort Worth and TCU in summer 2003, he made no secret of his goals for the baseball Horned Frogs.

He wanted to get the Frogs back into the national playoffs, something they had known only twice in 108 years.

But that wasn’t all. Brazenly, he said if the Frogs start making the playoffs more often, they might earn a host role in a regional tournament.

Then he started talking fantasy.

“Can you imagine,” he said in a Star-Telegram profile 10 years ago, “if we played a Super Regional here and got the final out in this stadium?

“I stand in center field all the time and think about that,” he said then. “Crowd on their feet to get the last out, and — poof — strike three — going to Omaha. It’d be awesome.”

It was fanciful talk for a team that had never hosted playoffs, in a market dominated by professional baseball, in a state with the University of Texas Longhorns and breakout teams such as the Rice Owls.

And it all came true.

On a Monday workday June 9, before a chanting and clapping crowd of 4,450 at Lupton Stadium, TCU relief ace Riley Ferrell delivered that strike three against Pepperdine in the deciding third game of the first NCAA Super Regional playoff ever in Dallas-Fort Worth.

That lifted the Frogs to a 6-5 victory and a College World Series trip after what was already a dizzying season.

TCU won 33 out of 37 games down the stretch and turned Lupton Stadium into a playoff playground. It was the first time since the old 1970s regionals at Arlington Stadium that a College World Series bid was decided here.

The Horned Frogs kept fans up late with heartstopping, dramatic defensive plays and come-from-behind victories, including a 22-inning regional victory over Sam Houston State that lasted longer than all but one college baseball playoff in history.

They gave Fort Worth and Texas their hearts, right through their last College World Series game Thursday night.

It was everything Schlossnagle dreamed 10 years ago. And it was awesome.

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