A year later, TCU has another shot at a baseball championship

TCU practiced Thursday at Lupton Stadium before opening the Fort Worth Regional Friday against Sacred Heart.
TCU practiced Thursday at Lupton Stadium before opening the Fort Worth Regional Friday against Sacred Heart. Star-Telegram

Getting another regional at home.

Getting another Super Regional at home.

Getting to another College World Series.

Those are pretty high bars for any team in any season. But this year at TCU, with eight seniors and the top closer in school history coming back, they were expected to be met and cleared.

If not? Well ...

“That’s the giant elephant we’ve created at TCU,” coach Jim Schlossnagle said with wry smile. “Which is great. I don’t have any problem with high expectations as long as we have high support, which is what we have. Regardless of what the outside expectations are, our expectations within the program are to compete every year for the right to go to Omaha.”

The Horned Frogs have cleared one high bar already in what they hope is the start of the road to Omaha and the College World Series. Their 43-11 season and Big 12 regular-season championship earned them the right to host the Fort Worth Regional at Lupton Stadium, where they begin postseason play Friday night as the top seed.

The winner of the four-team double-elimination tournament moves on to a best-of-three Super Regional series next weekend. And if it is the Horned Frogs, it will again be at Lupton Stadium. The Frogs earned that right by being one of the top eight seeds in the national bracket.

The second high bar.

“Right now, our No. 1 goal is to win a game on Friday night,” reliever Trey Teakell said. “Approaching it that way gives us the best chance to meet those expectations. Because I’ll be honest with you, if you don’t win a regional and a Super Regional at home, it can look like a failure. But we’re not looking at it that way. We’re focusing more on what we want to do rather than what we don’t want to happen.”

But Teakell is right.

The Horned Frogs, regional and Super Regional champs a year ago and College World Series qualifiers, returned such a loaded and experienced team, it was almost as if there was no allowance to fail. Anything less than what they’ve done so far — no matter the circumstances, no matter the record — would have been a major disappointment.

It’s not easy to run the lap again.

“From the first meeting, ever since the last game against Ole Miss last year, when we lost in Omaha, our goal has been to win a national championship,” third baseman Derek Odell said. “Along the way, it was to win the Big 12, win our regional and Super Regional and make it back to Omaha and win the whole thing.

“Those are the expectations we’ve had the whole time. So it’s not something that we feel like we’re all awestruck with, being in this situation. It’s not new.”

But there was also no guarantee the Horned Frogs would circle right back to this position.

In 2012, they were also a Super Regional team with a group of freshmen including Odell, shortstop Keaton Jones, pitcher Preston Morrison and their leading hitter, Boomer White. Outfielders Jerrick Suiter and Cody Jones and first baseman Kevin Cron were sophomores. Catcher Kyle Bacak was a junior.

But in 2013, with all those players back, the Horned Frogs were barely over .500. Forget another regional or Super Regional. They did not even qualify for postseason.

“That team was full of a bunch of really good players that worked really hard — maybe too hard, tried too hard, and things just kind of snowballed on us,” Schlossnagle said. “The expectations were high for that team because you expected them to come back and take off where they left off. It didn’t work out that way. Maybe because they went through that experience, maybe we’re better for it.”

A year later — well, 11 months and a week later — the 2015 Horned Frogs are back at the start line for the postseason. They have met at least that expectation.

“It definitely feels good to be back here for regionals just like last year and three years ago,” Teakell said. “It feels normal to be back here again.”

Another regional at home.

Another chance for a Super Regional at home.

Another chance at Omaha.

“It kind of feels like we were just here yesterday, like we were heading into regionals yesterday,” said closer Riley Ferrell, the school record-holder for saves. “It brings back a lot of great memories. It brings back a lot of memories that we want to keep going.”

And resets a very high bar.

Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @calexmendez

Fort Worth Regional

at Lupton Stadium

Friday’s games

Game 1: N.C. State (34-21) vs. Stony Brook (34-14-1), 2:30 p.m. today

Game 2: TCU (43-11) vs. Sacred Heart (23-30-1), 7 p.m. today

Saturday’s games

Game 3: Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 2:30 p.m.

Game 4: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 7 p.m.

Sunday’s games

Game 5: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 loser, 2:30 p.m.

Game 6: Game 4 winner vs. Game 5 winner, 7 p.m.

Monday’s game (if necessary)

Game 6 winner vs. Game 6 loser, 7 p.m.

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