There were two reasons for TCU's tepid celebration after clinching a share of its seventh and final Mountain West Conference regular-season title Sunday.
The No. 20 Horned Frogs defeated San Diego State 10-2 in front of 4,027 at Lupton Stadium to earn a share of the title with New Mexico.
But the Frogs, the outright champion the previous six years in the league, have bigger goals.
And they may have to do it without their top hitter, senior Jason Coats. Coats injured his knee and left the game after running to first base in the sixth inning. His status won't be known until today, TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said.
It was Coats' final game at Lupton Stadium on a day TCU honored him and fellow seniors Brance Rivera and Zac Jordan.
The prospect of playing without Coats, who leads the Frogs in batting (.326), hits (63), doubles (13) and RBIs (45), put a damper on the Frogs' regular-season finale. TCU has won 21 of its last 25 games.
Second seed TCU (35-17, 18-6) plays third-seed San Diego State at 5 p.m. Thursday in the MWC tournament in Las Vegas. New Mexico earned the top seed with a tiebreaker edge on TCU and plays host UNLV at 9 p.m. Thursday. The tournament champion earns an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
The Frogs turned a team-record five double plays Sunday, including four in the first four innings. The Aztecs (24-32, 12-12) had the leadoff hitter aboard in five of the first six innings, including in the first, when Greg Allen reached on an error and scored on Chris Wilson's single.
Third baseman Jantzen Witte started double plays in the second and fourth to quell Aztec rallies. Three of the five double plays came off the bat of Dillon Bryant.
The biggest came in the sixth and was started by pitcher Justin Scharf after the Aztecs loaded the bases with no outs. Scharf entered after an error and a double against starter Stefan Crichton and a hit batsman by Travis Evans.
Scharf fielded a comebacker to the mound and threw home to start a 1-2-3 double play. He struck out Evan Potter on three pitches to end the inning.
"The defense saved him," Schlossnagle said of Crichton, who allowed two runs (one earned) on seven hits in five innings to improve to 7-2. "But he made pitches when he needed to."
Rivera's two-run single in the second inning gave the Frogs a 2-1 lead. Derek Odell's two-run triple in the fourth boosted the margin to 5-1.
Brett Johnson had a career-high four hits and put TCU up 8-2 with a two-run homer to the right-field corner in the fifth. Kevin Cron was 3 for 3 with three runs scored and an RBI.
"I was just hoping it stayed fair," Johnson said of his first homer of the season. "I think we're finding it at a good time. We had a good regular season but the postseason is what really matters."
And the Frogs' offense continues to show positive signs, collecting 34 hits in three games against the Aztecs.
"With the vibe on the team right now, and how we're playing, I'm really excited for the postseason," said Rivera, who is batting .225, 100 points below his career average entering the season. "It's coming together at the right time."
With Coats possibly out of the lineup, Rivera's production at the plate becomes even more important.
"[Rivera's second-inning single] got us going," Schlossnagle said. "And we need him to get going. We're really counting on him to get hot."