Thursday morning, the TCU baseball team leaves Fort Worth, headed to play in its fifth College World Series since 2010. The Horned Frogs have been in Omaha more than they have not in the past eight years.
But they have yet to come home with the national championship.
They need no reminding.
“At this point, after doing it two times, it would not be satisfaction to come home empty-handed,” said right fielder Austen Wade, who will play in his third College World Series.
“Coach says there’s never a bad day in Omaha,” said catcher Evan Skoug, who will also play in his third world series. “But the last two years, when we finished our season, it was a pretty bad day.”
And it’s probably the last chance for Wade and Skoug, the top two TCU players taken in the Major League Baseball draft this week. Wade went in the fifth round to the Cleveland Indians, and Skoug in the seventh round to the Chicago White Sox.
TCU is not over-matched in Omaha. They are 8-8 in four CWS appearances and have reached the semifinals three times.
But the Frogs have never reached the best-of-three finals.
Last season was their best chance yet. Entering the semifinals from the winners bracket, they had two chances to win one game against Coastal Carolina. Instead, they lost both, and Coastal won the national championship in three games against Arizona.
“I don’t want to become the Buffalo Bills,” coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “It’s something I’ve thought about. But it’s a lot different. We’re not going to play one game, like the Super Bowl. We’re going to play a tournament. Tournament baseball is so volatile.”
That doesn’t ease the sting much, though.
Because while getting to Omaha is nice, no one wants it to be the last chapter again.
“Last year was bitter,” Wade said. “We put ourselves in a great position by winning the first two games. We’re in the driver’s seat and then suddenly, things just don’t fall our way. That’s not how it should have gone last year.”
The Horned Frogs spent a year thinking about last year — and not thinking about last year. Now, it’s here again.
“We just kept it in the back of our minds, kept that feeling with us,” pitcher Jared Janczak said. “Didn’t take it the wrong way. Just remembered what it was like. Took it into our preparation.”
In the opener, TCU will face a higher-ranked team for the first time in postseason when it opens Sunday against Florida. Then, either Louisville — a team that has won five more games than TCU — or Texas A&M, which would need no stoking for a matchup against the team that led to its elimination in back-to-back Super Regionals.
Not to mention the other bracket, which contains the overall top seed in the tournament: Oregon State.
The hurdles are high for the Frogs in their quest for their first national crown.
They are not surprised.
After four chances, they shouldn’t be.
“All these programs are big-time names,” Wade said. “I think we belong up there. I think we’ve got an incredible team to go up there and actually accomplish the mission we talked about at the beginning of the fall.”
No. 6 TCU vs. No. 4 Florida
- 6 p.m. Sunday (ESPN2)
- College World Series in Omaha, Neb.