It’s been said that as it relates to sports, a baseball season most reflects life itself, simply because one game can feel like a week. Managing the roller-coaster of emotions of disappointment and triumph from day-to-day — even inning-to-inning — can make or break a season.
Then there is TCU’s postseason.
Talk sudden and extreme changes.
If experience in winning close games and dealing with hardship are requisite credentials for winning the College World Series, the Horned Frogs have it.
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A look at the top 10 moments in a season that has culminated in the Frogs’ return to the CWS on Sunday.
1On to Omaha — TCU’s third trip to the College World Series — and second in consecutive years — was a trip through every gut-wrenching emotion, from sorrow, regret and dismay to the jubilation, joy and relief of a hard-fought 5-4 triumph over Texas A&M in 16 innings on Monday at the Super Regional at Lupton Stadium. Lefty Alex Young pitched around trouble in the first two innings, the Frogs blew a three-run lead by yielding three runs in the eighth and ninth innings. Frogs fans then took to their worry beads for 6 1/2 scoreless innings, until the 16th and breakthrough with the biggest two-out run of the season. Garrett Crain, who led off the inning with a walk, scored on an error off Evan Skoug’s base hit, kicking off a dogpile worthy of Omaha, Neb.
2No ordinary manic Monday — Down 8-1 in the eighth in the regional final against North Carolina State, TCU needed some help to save its season. The Frogs got it. They scored six runs in the eighth on three Wolf Pack errors, a balk and passed ball … all with two outs. In the ninth, Derek Odell led off with a single, advanced to second on a ground-out and on to third on another balk. He tied the game on a passed ball, proving once and for all that recording six outs in a game can be as difficult as learning Mandarin. To extra innings we went — well, those who hadn’t gone to sleep an hour ago. In the 10th, TCU’s Evan Williams led off with a single and he moved to second on — you could’ve guessed it — an errant pickoff attempt to first. Cody Jones walked. Both runners moved over on Jeremie Fagnan’s sacrifice bunt, setting the stage for Elliott Barzilli, whose game-winning RBI confirmed the Frogs’ belief in the power of the baseball gods.
3Alexander wins arm wrestling match — Confronted with a second elimination game on May 31 in the Fort Worth Regional, lefty Tyler Alexander was spectacular in keeping the Frogs alive and well with a complete-game 8-2 victory against North Carolina State, including six perfect innings. The sophomore bewildered the Wolf Pack, holding them to one earned run on three hits, no walks and six strikeouts.
4Stony Brook — The Frogs had to win twice on May 31 to fight off elimination from the NCAA Tournament and did so in Game 1 with a big stick in an 8-3 victory over Stony Brook. Catcher Evan Skoug was 2 for 5 with a double and three-run home run in a decisive fifth inning, Connor Wanhanen was 3 for 5 with two RBIs and Nolan Brown went 3 for 5 with an RBI as the Frogs lived to see another day.
5Punched out — If the Frogs had any false sense of inevitability, it disappeared in two consecutive losses and elimination at the Big 12 Tournament, including an 8-1 knockout punch by Texas Tech on May 21. In the two games, TCU committed three errors, gave up five home runs, misplayed a double-play ball, stole no bases, ran into an inning-ending out at third base, walked seven, balked twice, hit a batter, threw two wild pitches, blew a save, hit .243, had only two hits for extra bases and went 4 for 21 with runners in scoring position. “No team should be judged on any one game or series,” coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “To answer your question, I think we’re a slam-dunk national seed. But that’s the least of my concern. Last time I checked, you’ve got to win a regional before you get to a super regional.”
6Made in Manhattan? — The Frogs hit a low spot in conference after dropping two of three on the road to Kansas State in a Big 12 series that started April 10. TCU, though, bounced back with 11 consecutive Big 12 victories to end the season. The experience, too, might have served a purpose for getting over two disappointing losses and quick elimination at the Big 12 Tournament in Tulsa as the NCAA Tournament loomed.
7Sealing the deal in Oklahoma — The Frogs won the school’s 15th regular-season conference title and eighth under coach Jim Schlossnagle with a 5-4 victory over the Sooners in Norman on May 14. Cody Jones, Keaton Jones and Derek Odell, who scored the winning run in the ninth on a throwing error, each had two RBIs. Cody Jones, the Big 12 Player of the Year, was 2-for-4 with a home run, RBI, walk and run scored. The Frogs finished off the sweep by outslugging OU in an 11-9 victory in Game 2 and a 4-2 win in Game 3. Over the three games, TCU hit five home runs.
8Taking a broom to Baylor — TCU rode the momentum from a southern California road trip to a sweep of Baylor to open the Big 12 schedule on the weekend of March 13. The Frogs dominated play, outscoring the Bears 16-4 over the three games. Starting pitchers Mitchell Traver, Preston Morrison and Alex Young all earned victories, and center fielder Cody Jones was 8 for 9 with two walks and RBI and two runs scored in the Frogs’ 10-1 win to finish off Baylor on Sunday. It was Cody Jones’ seventh multi-hit game of the season and 40th of his career.
9Never too late at Arizona State — A road series victory over a top-10 opponent represented TCU’s second in two years after the Frogs took two of three in Tempe, Ariz. The Sun Devils’ 7-6 victory set up the rubber match and some excitement on Feb. 22. Connor Wanhanen scored on a throwing error to tie the game and Cody Jones’ base hit in the ninth scored Evan Williams with the game-winning run in a 3-2 victory.
10Not dodging anybody — The week of March 3 was as good a primer as a team can get for the rigors of conference and postseason play. No. 1 TCU’s week began with a 3-1 victory over No. 10 Rice at Lupton Stadium. A trip to Los Angeles for the Dodger Classic was a test of national powers. The Frogs opened the weekend with a 7-6 loss to No. 23 USC. The next three on the schedule, including No. 4 UCLA and highly ranked (No. 1 in some polls) Vanderbilt, fell like corn before the sickle. Alex Young dominated the Bruins’ lineup and Elliott Barzilli’s two-run double in the sixth accounted for the winning runs in the Frogs’ 3-1 triumph. Against Vandy, Preston Morrison surrendered two runs on seven hits over six innings and another two-run double in the sixth, by Keaton Jones, made the right-hander a 4-2 winner at Dodger Stadium.
College World Series
(At Omaha, Neb.)
Note: x-if necessary
Game 1 — Virginia 5, Arkansas 3
Game 2 — Florida (46-19) vs. Miami (49-15), late
Game 3 — TCU (51-13) vs. LSU (53-10), 2 p.m.
Game 4 — Cal State Fullerton (39-23) vs. Vanderbilt (47-19), 7 p.m.
Game 5 — Arkansas (40-24) vs. Game 2 loser, 2 p.m.
Game 6 — Virginia (38-22) vs. Game 2 winner, 7 p.m.
Game 7 — Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 loser, 2 p.m.
Game 8 — Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 7 p.m.
Game 9 — Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 loser, 7 p.m.
Game 10 — Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 loser, 7 p.m.
Game 11 — Game 6 winner vs. Game 9 winner, 2 p.m.
Game 12 — Game 8 winner vs. Game 10 winner, 7 p.m.
June 20 games
x-Game 13 — If Game 9 winner also wins game 11, TBD
x-Game 14 — If Game 10 winner also wins Game 12, TBD
June 22: Teams TBD, 7 p.m.
June 23: Teams TBD, 7 p.m.
x-June 24: Teams TBD, 7 p.m.