TCU has won the Mountain West regular-season title every year since joining the conference in 2006.
With less than three weeks left in the Horned Frogs' final season in the league, that dominance is being threatened by an old foe.
New Mexico, which opens a crucial three-game series against TCU at 6:30 tonight at Lupton Stadium, has consistently been the biggest threat to the Frogs' supremacy the past seven years and hopes to swipe the title before TCU moves on to the Big 12.
The Lobos (26-19, 12-3 in MWC) enter the series in first place and a one-game lead on the Frogs (27-15, 11-4) with six conference games left for both teams after the weekend.
"You have to beat these guys to be on top, but you can't make it too big," Lobos pitcher Austin House said in a story posted on the team's website. "They're not the Yankees. They're definitely beatable, but we're beatable as well."
The Lobos took two of three from the Frogs in Albuquerque in March after roughing up the Frogs' starting pitching, including tonight's starter Andrew Mitchell (4-2). He allowed four runs in three innings but the Frogs' bullpen shut the Lobos down (including four strong innings by Nick Frey) to escape with a 5-4 win.
New Mexico leads the nation with 518 hits and is batting .318, seventh best in Division I. Infielder D.J. Peterson is a player of the year candidate and leads the nation with 80 hits and is batting a third-best .437. He has 13 homers (tied for 10th in the nation) and 57 RBIs (second).
Conversely, the Frogs are last in the MWC with a .251 batting average and rank 266th out of 291 schools.
"If there's a championship to play for, of course we want to win it," said TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle, whose Frogs are 38-17 against the Lobos but have lost four of the past five.
New Mexico has the easier schedule of the two with three games apiece against Air Force and UNLV, both 5-13 in the MWC. TCU has three at Air Force next weekend but finishes the regular season at home against San Diego State (20-26, 9-9), May 18-20.
The MWC tournament begins May 24 in Las Vegas, with the winner earning an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. New Mexico defeated TCU twice to win the MWC tournament a year ago. But the regular-season title, and the hold TCU has had on it during the Frogs' tenure in the league, is not lost on New Mexico. The Lobos want to knock off the undisputed champ.
"Heck, yeah, it's important," Lobos coach Ray Birmingham said. "Would it be cool? Heck, yeah. It's the best college team in Texas over the last five years."