If winning is contagious, then the TCU baseball team is dealing with an epidemic.
The No. 19 Horned Frogs are 19-1 since April 1 and have won 12 consecutive games entering this weekend’s series with Oklahoma at Lupton Stadium.
TCU (34-13, 13-5 in the Big 12) has been on a roll unseen since 1993. Not even in 2010, when the Frogs earned their first trip to the College World Series, did they put together a streak like this.
The winning, which has propelled TCU to No. 9 in the latest rating percentage index rankings, according to Boydsworld, a respected RPI-tracking website, has been coupled with a measured don’t-look-directly-at-the-sun-type attitude from TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle and his players. Their long view not only stems from old baseball superstitions but from a recent history of the opposite kind of contagious play. Like a year ago, when everything that could go wrong seemed to go wrong.
“We don’t necessarily walk around with a cocky attitude,” TCU’s leading hitter Boomer White said. “We’re not telling everyone. If people want to find out, they can find out that we’re playing well. Like coach said, we haven’t really won anything yet.”
True, as sparkling as TCU has been over the last month, plenty remains to be accomplished in the final seven games of the regular season. The Frogs are tied with Oklahoma State (35-13, 13-5) atop the Big 12 with six league games remaining for both teams.
At the moment, TCU looks nearly guaranteed to host one of the 16 NCAA regionals, but even that could be undone with an unlikely nose dive the next couple of weeks. (TCU hosted regionals from 2009-11.) The Cowboys own the tie-breaker on the Frogs after taking two of three games earlier this season.
Although winning the league isn’t paramount, failure to do so puts more pressure on TCU to win the Big 12 tournament in Oklahoma City May 21-25 to secure one of the eight coveted national seeds. The national seed gives teams home-field advantage if they advance to the Super Regionals. TCU has never been a national seed or hosted a Super Regional.
TCU’s pitching has led the surge with a Big 12 record-tying 13 shutouts. But the offense has also turned it up a notch or two since April 1. Through its first 27 games on March 31, TCU had scored 117 runs. Since then, the offense has scored 121 runs in just 20 games. All but two of the everyday players have increased their batting average since April 1. The team was batting .265 before April. Since, TCU is batting .310.
“We’re definitely more confident than we’ve ever been,” said Dylan Fitzgerald, who leads the Frogs with a .370 batting average since April 1. “Down the order we have confidence, unlike last year. We know people are going to produce and drive in runs. Our offense is just unbelievable right now.”
The latest example of the offensive outbreak was the 21-run, 18-hit barrage in Sunday’s run-rule win against Kansas State. White, Fitzgerald and Garrett Crain had multi-hit innings as TCU batted around three times.
“It’s confidence,” White said. “It’s nice coming to the field and knowing everyone out here says, ‘Yeah, we’re going to win this one today.’ There’s no doubt in our mind, even if we do get down. It’s something I haven’t experienced here, and I didn’t experience my last year in high school so it has been a while since I’ve been on a team that’s gone on a run like this. There’s nothing more fun.”
But ... and here’s the key to TCU’s success so far in 2014: “We haven’t really won anything yet,” White said. “We haven’t secured a regional here, we haven’t secured a national seed, or a Big 12 Conference championship. Nothing like that, so we’ve still got work to do.”
Since April 1, TCU has gone 19-1, including 11-1 in Big 12 games. Here’s a look at TCU’s offensive numbers before and after April 1:
|On March 31||Since April 1|
|Cody Jones||.237, 19 R, 14 SB||.267, 16 R, 7 SB|
|Derek Odell||.279, 11 R, 16 RBI||.329, 14 R, 9 RBI|
|Boomer White||.364, 23 R, 16 RBI||.364, 18 R, 17 RBI|
|Kevin Cron||.268, 13 R, 1 HR, 17 RBI||.292, 11 R, 3 HR, 12 RBI|
|Garrett Crain||.375, 5 R, 1 RBI||.344, 13 R, 12 RBI|
|Jerrick Suiter||.239, 3 R, 5 2B, 9 RBI||.293, 11 R, 7 2B, 10 RBI|
|Dylan Fitzgerald||.305, 6 2B, 9 R, 11 RBI||.370, 6 2B, 15 R, 15 RBI|
|Keaton Jones||.250, 13 R, 5 RBI||.232, 7 R, 9 RBI|
|Kyle Bacak||.217, 6 R, 4 RBI||.288, 10 R, 8 RBI|