No, it’s not going to be easy for TCU to advance out of the Fort Worth Regional.
The Horned Frogs are without Luken Baker.
One of the best teams in the country, Virginia, was sent to their regional.
No. 1 pitcher Jared Janczak is still only two starts removed from a month sidelined by injury.
All things considered, a potential fourth consecutive trip to Omaha begins with a steeper-looking road than ever for the Frogs.
But they’ll take it.
“Why would we want a cakewalk through our own regional to get to a Super Regional that is going to be eye-opening for us?” right fielder Austen Wade said. “We want to be able to come out of this regional and say you know what, that’s the kind of atmosphere it’s going to be like in a week. We want it to be second nature when it comes to Super Regional time.”
TCU (42-15) is one of three 40-win teams in the Fort Worth Regional, joining Virginia (42-14) and Dallas Baptist (40-19). The fourth team, Central Connecticut State, comes in at 36 wins.
Combined, the four teams have 44 NCAA tournament appearances.
“As I tell our team all the time, from this point on, you’re either playing a really good team, a really hot team, or both,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “That’s what these three teams are.”
TCU is coming off its best four starting pitching performances of the season.
Virginia has won 22 of 29 behind .400 hitter Adam Haseley.
Dallas Baptist, with 84 home runs, matched TCU, Florida, Louisville and LSU as the only teams with 40 wins each of the past four seasons.
Central Connecticut State has won 13 of 15 and led its league in ERA.
“The path that we’ve got right now, if you can make it out of that, there’s not much that can stand in your way,” left fielder Josh Watson said.
The winner of the Fort Worth Regional will face the winner of the Fayetteville Regional, itself populated with three 40-win teams. That Super Regional best-of-3 series will be in Fort Worth if TCU advances.
“Every team that’s going to come down here is going to be playing hot or mad, and every team that’s in this with us is going to be ready to go,” Wade said.
TCU does have advantages at its home regional.
First, it’s their home regional. The Frogs are 17-3 all-time in regional games at Lupton Stadium. They have the experience of six regional championships in nine seasons. The lineup is stocked with multi-year playoff veterans. And they know how their ballpark plays.
But the depth of the 2017 Fort Worth Regional is inescapable.
“If we want to make it to Omaha again, we’re going to have to beat some good teams,” second baseman Cam Warner said. “We’re going to have to start playing good baseball. We treat every game the same, we prepare the same. If you play good baseball, you’re more than likely going to win baseball games.”
Fort Worth Regional, Lupton Stadium
No. 11 Virginia vs. Dallas Baptist, 3 p.m. Friday (ESPNU)
No. 7 TCU vs. Central Connecticut State, 8 p.m. Friday (ESPN3 streaming)
Elimination game, 2 p.m. (ESPN3 streaming)
Winners game, 7 p.m. (ESPN3 streaming)
Elimination game, 3 p.m. (ESPN3 streaming)
Semifinal/championship game, 8 p.m. (ESPN3 streaming)
Championship game, 6 p.m., if necessary (ESPN3 streaming)