TCU's third baseman Conner Shepherd homered for the second consecutive game on Saturday
Forget, if you can, the fact that TCU baseball is coming off a disappointing sweep to the Texas Longhorns in Austin.
In fact, even with those three losses, the Horned Frogs have put together a good finish to a mostly discouraging season in which their best hitter (Luken Baker) and best pitcher (Jared Janczak) have been sidelined with season-ending injuries since April 17. The Frogs finished the regulars season winning 11 of 16.
Sixth-seeded TCU (30-22) opens the double-elimination Big 12 Conference tournament against No. 3 seed Texas Tech (38-15) at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Bricktown Ballpark in downtown Oklahoma City. With a win, TCU advances to play the winner between Oklahoma State and West Virginia at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. If TCU loses its first game, they play the OSU/WVU loser at 12:30 p.m. Thursday. Two losses eliminates teams.
"It's never about the best team, it's about who plays the best," TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle is fond of saying, "and that certainly applies in a tournament setting."
The Frogs need a strong showing in the tournament, if not a tournament title, to earn a postseason berth and a chance at reaching a fifth consecutive College World Series. They enter the tournament at No. 65 in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) rankings. Texas Tech is No. 5, Texas is No. 14, OSU is No. 28, Oklahoma is No. 39, Baylor is No. 42 and West Virginia is No. 53.
"A lot of things have to go right for us right now against good teams," Schlossnagle said. "And they're all good teams. We have to get the timely hits. We had plenty of opportunities to win that series [in Austin] if we get some timely hits."
Over the past five seasons (since TCU joined the Big 12), the regular-season finish hasn't always been an indicator of the eventual champion.
A year ago, Oklahoma State won its final two regular-season games but had lost six in a row before that but swept its way to the tournament title.
Going in hot doesn't always translate. Nor does the opposite. The Frogs had won nine in a row before being eliminated after losing their first two games in 2015.
That year the Longhorns lost six of their final 10 games and finished fifth in the Big 12 but won four in a row to win the tournament. In 2016, the Frogs won their final five games before going 4-1 to win the title. They finished 3-2 in 2014 before taking the '14 title. In 2013, the Sooners lost nine of their last 12 games but won four consecutive tournament games for the title.
The tournament is divided into two brackets. TCU is the No. 6 seed and in a bracket with No. 2 Oklahoma State, No. 3 Texas Tech and No. 7 West Virginia. The other bracket includes No. 1 Texas, No. 4 Oklahoma, No. 5 Baylor and No. 8 Kansas.
The Frogs, of course, won of two of three against both Texas Tech and West Virginia at home in the regular season. TCU was swept by OSU in Stillwater in March.
Considering the layout of the bracket, TCU must be somewhat pleased. The Frogs went 3-8 against the four teams in the other bracket.
Big 12 tournament schedule
(All games televised on FCS, except Sunday on FSSW)
Game 1: No. 4 Oklahoma vs. No. 5 Baylor, 9 a.m.
Game 2: No. 1 Texas vs. No. 8 Kansas, 12:30 p.m.
Game 3: No. 2 Oklahoma St. vs. No. 7 West Virginia, 4 p.m.
Game 4: No. 3 Texas Tech vs. No. 6 TCU, 7:30 p.m.
Game 5: Game 1 Loser vs. Game 2 Loser, 9 a.m.
Game 6: Game 3 Loser vs. Game 4 Loser, 12:30 p.m.
Game 7: Game 1 Winner vs. Game 2 Winner, 4 p.m.
Game 8: Game 3 Winner vs. Game 4 Winner, 7:30 p.m.
Game 9: Game 7 Loser vs. Game 5 Winner, 3:15 p.m.
Game 10: Game 8 Loser vs. Game 6 Winner, 7:30 p.m.
Game 11: Game 7 Winner vs. Game 9 Winner, 9 a.m.
Game 12: Game 8 Winner vs. Game 10 Winner, 12:30 p.m.
*Game 13: If Necessary, 4 p.m.
**Game 14: If Necessary***, 7 p.m.
Game 15: Championship Game (FSSW), 1 p.m.