Sometime during the season, something bad had to happen for the TCU baseball team, coach Jim Schlossnagle figures.
Getting bounced unceremoniously out of the Big 12 tournament qualifies.
“Every team faces adversity throughout the course of a season,” the veteran coach said. “And ours is right now.”
The Horned Frogs came back to Fort Worth with an 0-2 black eye from their trip to Tulsa. They lost their opener 6-5 to Baylor when their vaunted bullpen failed for the first time this year and then 8-1 to Texas Tech when their most reliable starter gave up seven runs.
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On top of it all, the offense left 22 runners on base, the defense committed three errors and two mental mistakes, and hardly anyone showed spark — save for leadoff hitter Cody Jones getting five hits in his first six at-bats.
“I have full confidence in these guys,” Schlossnagle said. “It’s a veteran club that didn’t play well. First time we’ve lost back-to-back games this year. Every team has a story. Last year, it was 16-12 and 2-4.”
That’s the record the Horned Frogs had on April 4, 2014, when they trailed by two runs in the ninth inning at home against West Virginia. They were three outs away from a 2-5 start to the conference race, but rallied for a 4-3 victory. It was the start of a 27-3 finish to the regular season that launched TCU to a 3-0 regional tournament, a 2-1 Super Regional series victory and a berth in the College World Series.
It’s clear the message Schlossnagle is trying to get across.
“We’re either going to make this a really, really good story, or we’re going to peter out at the end,” Schlossnagle said. “My money’s on the fact that this is just going to be part of our season, part of a longer season. I have no doubt about that.”
But unlike last year, there is little time to recover. The NCAA playoffs start Friday. There are no buffer games between the unsettling losses in Tulsa and the intensity of the games to come.
“You have to go home, get some rest and get to work,” Schlossnagle said. “That’s our identity. That’s who we are. These guys know this. They’ve been around the block. Greatness isn’t awarded. It’s earned. That’s what we’re going to have to do.”
The Horned Frogs can’t be blamed for thinking big. The College World Series trip a year ago and the return of seven seniors, plus top-flight junior closer Riley Ferrell, have had them playing against a high standard all season.
Starting the postseason by being swept out of the conference tournament is a stark contrast to those expectations.
“After today, embarrassed,” senior shortstop Keaton Jones said, asked to describe his read on the team after its elimination. “We didn’t play like who we are. Not even close. When we get back, we’re just going to have to figure it out, get our identity back and be strong in the regional.”
It’s not hard to figure out the plan until the next game.
“It’ll be nice to get some rest for sure, for our bodies, our arms,” Jones said. “But we want to get back out there and play. We just need to get our confidence back and realize that we’re a better team than we played this week.”
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7760