Assembled on Monday morning to watch the NCAA Tournament selection show, TCU players barely responded when it was announced that the Horned Frogs were meeting Ole Miss at the College Station Regional.
So coach Jim Schlossnagle began to clap.
He wasn't sure what their nonreaction meant, but he wanted to give a local news cameraman footage worth showing on the air. So he elicited a round of applause from his team and waited to inquire about their subdued response to the good news.
"When we come to TCU, this is what we expect to happen," was the response from team leader Josh Elander, who will be playing in his third consecutive regional when the Horned Frogs (36-19) open against Ole Miss (35-24) at 12:35 p.m. today at Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park. Top seed and ninth-ranked Texas A&M (42-16) plays Dayton (31-28) at 6:35 tonight.
Schlossnagle liked his team's reasoning and was excited by a focused week of practice after the Frogs underperformed last week at the Mountain West tournament.
"It's a pretty driven bunch," Schlossnagle said. "I think they're very embarrassed by how we played last week; I know I was. I'm hoping we go out with something to prove, which I hope we do, to avoid ending our season."
Three of the regional's four teams began the season ranked in Baseball America's Top 25. Only host Texas A&M, which started No. 7 in the nation, held onto to its preseason clout, and is the favorite to advance to the Super Regional. TCU, 15th when the season began, dropped out of the poll after going 1-2 last week. Mississippi, ranked as high as 10th after a hot start, has been unranked since early May and has gone 7-8, including 1-2 at the Southeastern Conference tournament.
Both the Horned Frogs and the Rebels have the pitching to give the Aggies a good fight, but their offenses must come through in order to advance and play the winner of the Los Angeles Regional.
"We're excited to turn the page and anxious to get going," Rebels coach Mike Bianco said. "It's a big challenge for us right off the bat against a team two years removed from the College World Series, with guys with a lot of experience who are used to winning and being in this type of situation."
Freshman Preston Morrison (9-1, 1.73 ERA), who was selected to the Louisville Slugger All-America third team Thursday, starts against Rebels right-hander Bobby Wahl (6-3, 2.26 ERA). Wahl was the winner in the season opener at TCU on Feb. 17.
Morrison got his first career win against the Rebels in February.
Four other freshmen, infielders Kevin Cron, Derek Odell and Keaton Jones and outfielder Jerrick Suiter, will also start for the Frogs. All four have shown the last month why they were highly recruited. Schlossnagle is counting on veterans Elander, Kyle Von Tungeln, Brance Rivera and Jantzen Witte returning to form after a lackluster tournament.
Both teams are savoring their fresh starts and a chance to reclaim their mojo.
"You spend 56 games trying to get to this point and getting your team ready to go, and now all bets are off," Schlossnagle said. "Now, it's who plays the best baseball."