The season doesn't come down to this weekend for TCU baseball. In fact, the Horned Frogs will still have 12 regular-season games, including six in the Big 12, remaining before the conference tournament.
But this three-game set against No. 4 Texas Tech (32-10, 10-5 in the Big 12), beginning at 8 p.m. Friday at Lupton Stadium, is something of a last stand for TCU ( 20-17, 6-8), which is fighting for its life to stay in the postseason hunt.
It is an odd position for the Horned Frogs, who have been to an unparalleled four consecutive College World Series and have missed the postseason only once in coach Jim Schlossnagle's 14 previous seasons.
That was in 2013, TCU's first season in the Big 12. That team finished 29-28 after losing its first six games. But even that team went 12-12 in the Big 12. At the moment, that's looking like a good finish for the Frogs.
"We haven’t had the season we wanted to have but even still this weekend was one people marked on their calendar," Schlossnagle said. "A weekend like this is why you come to play at TCU. They’re certainly really, really talented and are playing really well. But, as we like to say, it’s never about the best team, it's about the team that plays the best. We're going to count on that this weekend."
TCU is 75th in the latest RPI (ratings percentage index) rankings, which quantify a team's record and its strength of schedule. RPI is a major factor in deciding which teams earn at-large NCAA tournament berths and how they are seeded.
A strong showing over the next three weeks, beginning against the Red Raiders, could greatly improve the Frogs' RPI ranking. Texas Tech ranks third in the RPI. Texas (29-15, 11-4) is No. 30 and West Virginia is No. 36. Winning against these teams would boost TCU's ranking and perhaps take some pressure off in the Big 12 tournament May 23-27. With a rough showing in the final 15 games, the Frogs will be forced to win the conference tournament to keep their postseason streak alive.
It won't be easy.
Texas Tech is an offensive powerhouse. The Red Raiders are fifth in the country in team batting average (.315) and home runs (58). TCU is hitting .265 with 20 homers. And if you take away the nine homers from injured first baseman Luken Baker, that's 11 homers for the current roster. Tech's Zach Rheams has 11 homers in 28 games. The Red Raiders lead all Power Five teams (and are second in the country) with 370 runs scored. TCU has scored 220 runs.
"It’s all out in front of us," TCU RBI leader A.J. Balta said. "If we can capitalize on the situation, I think we have a shot."
National television cameras will add even more drama the weekend. Friday's game is on FS1 and the Saturday and Sunday games are on ESPNU.
"That’s why you sign up, to get to play in ballparks like this in front of big crowds and on ESPN," said TCU designated hitter Michael Landestoy, who leads the team with a .321 batting average. "We get that opportunity this weekend and it's going to be fun. I know I’m excited for it."
TCU vs. Texas Tech
(at Lupton Stadium)
Game 1: 8 p.m. Friday (FS1)
Game 2: 7 p.m. Saturday (ESPNU)
Game 3: 1 p.m. Sunday (ESPNU)