It has been an, um, eventful week for TCU baseball.
Eight days ago, the Horned Frogs produced a rally for the ages in college baseball by coming back from a seven-run deficit in the eighth inning to beat North Carolina State. Early Tuesday morning against Texas A&M, they won a 16-inning game that coach Jim Schlossnagle called the best he’s ever been a part of.
Those victories — both in extra innings, both in walk-off style, both that would have meant elimination had they been lost — helped put the Horned Frogs in the College World Series, the game’s biggest stage.
The stakes are higher still. The opponents are as tough or tougher. And the pressure at-bats and pitches under stress will be more frequent.
But after the last week of TCU baseball, it can’t be anything that would surprise the Horned Frogs.
“I’m very confident. I’m confident in all our guys,” shortstop Keaton Jones said. “We’re very talented. We’ve worked so hard. At this point, we’ve proven to ourselves so much, that any one of those guys can come up big in a big-time situation, and I’ll have full confidence in them.”
TCU (49-13), making its second consecutive trip to Omaha, Neb., opens at 2 p.m. Sunday against LSU (53-10) at TD Ameritrade Park.
Schlossnagle promised his team that as good as the elation of the 9-8 comeback win against NC State felt, winning the Super Regional series would feel “10 times better.”
The Horned Frogs, veterans and newcomers alike, couldn’t disagree.
“We’re going to Omaha, so definitely,” said senior second baseman Garrett Crain, who scored the winning run against A&M.
“It is 10 times better,” said Keaton Jones, who played in his 24th postseason game for TCU. “It’s different because we’re going to Omaha, and it’s that much more special.”
It’s the third appearance at the College World Series for TCU, all under Schlossnagle, who now sits three victories shy of tying Lance Brown for the all-time lead at the school.
“I have TCU across my jersey, but I’m a college baseball fan,” the 12th-year coach said after the Frogs had finished off the draining victory against A&M. “Just to see the competition between two great teams, part of it was incredibly enjoyable, and part of it was a beating — all at the same time.”
For Schlossnagle, much of the satisfaction came from seeing his team prepare and execute, even as Monday’s game grew later and later into Tuesday.
“I just wish everybody could spend two seconds in the dugout around our guys,” he said. “And I’m sure Coach Childress would say the same thing about his team. The energy, they never quit — all the coachy things you can come up with — they never died. They just truly never died. We had opportunities, and so did A&M. It was a joy to be a part of that game.”
With eight seniors, the Horned Frogs boast more experience than typical college teams. That has likely helped them in the four postseason games that have been won in the final at-bat, either by them or against them.
“We said going into this weekend, there’s two things we’re going to have to handle — we’re going to have to handle adrenaline, and we’re going to have to handle adversity,” Schlossnagle said. “You know it’s going to happen. They’re prepared for that. It’s baseball. Things happen. And the best teams are the ones that can survive. And that senior class has been through three years of it, especially last year on the way to Omaha, all those close games. They never panic.”
Freshman designated hitter Connor Wanhanen saw it firsthand.
“I have no words,” he said. “It’s absolutely incredible. The way that we fought all night, it’s just a testament to our program and the way that we’ve been coached. It was just so fun to be a part of that. So much love for this group of guys. They’re so special to be around.”
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407
TCU is headed to its third College World Series under coach Jim Schlossnagle. Their postseason record since he took over the program for the 2004 season. (College World Series years in bold).