TCU had never missed the college baseball postseason until last year under veteran coach Jim Schlossnagle.
Schlossnagle and the Frogs are on the verge of a similar fate this season.
TCU essentially has to win its way into the NCAAs by winning the Big 12 Tournament this week in Oklahoma City. The Frogs (29-24, 11-13 Big 12) are No. 74 in the RPI, and know it’s far-fetched to receive an at-large bid.
As Schlossnagle said, “We’re going up there with the thought process like last year that we have to win the tournament.”
TCU has won the Big 12 Tournament twice before in 2014 and 2016, and must do so again. The first hurdle is knocking off arguably the hottest team in the Big 12 in Oklahoma State. The sixth-seeded Frogs take on the third-seeded Cowboys at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
The Cowboys won two of three from the Frogs earlier this season, are ranked No. 8 in the RPI and have won seven of their past eight games.
But the silver lining for TCU is ace left-hander Nick Lodolo is scheduled to start. Lodolo, who earned first-team all-Big 12 honors on Tuesday, allowed two unearned runs over seven innings in leading TCU to its lone win over Oklahoma State earlier this season.
“We’re going to have lights-out starting pitching,” Schlossnagle said.
Schlossnagle isn’t talking about just Lodolo, either. The Frogs need Charles King and Brandon Williamson to continue to deliver if they are going to make a run in the Big 12 tournament.
TCU will rely heavily on its starters, too, because of a depleted bullpen. Schlossnagle revealed that closer Marcelo Perez has been lost for the season with a shoulder injury, one of 13 players who will have missed significant time with an injury this season.
Jake Guenther, the Big 12’s newcomer of the year, is dealing with a wrist injury and his status for the conference tournament is in question too.
But, despite all the things going against his team, Schlossnagle is optimistic about his team’s chances. Why?
He pointed to Lodolo, King and Williamson as all pitching well down the stretch, and relievers such as Dalton Brown, Cal Coughlin, Haylen Green and Augie Mihlbauer finding their stride of late.
“I feel really confident,” Schlossnagle said. “The key is being able to get to them [in the bullpen]. Part of that is catching the baseball. We’re the worst fielding team in the Big 12, and there’s a lot of reasons for that. But we’ve shown the ability to play good defense.
“We’re going to have to play our best baseball to win.”