OMAHA, Neb. — The TCU Horned Frogs practiced at Creighton on Monday, a 1-0 team getting ready to face another 1-0 team at the College World Series.
That is nothing new.
In all three appearances at the College World Series, the Horned Frogs have been the winner of their opening game.
In 2010, they opened with an 8-1 victory against Florida State. Last year, it was a 3-2 victory against Texas Tech. This year, it was 10-3 against LSU.
But in the double-bracket/double-elimination format of the College World Series, the first victory is only the first part.
Never have the Horned Frogs won the second game to complete the 2-0 start that puts a team in commanding position for a spot in the championship series.
They need no reminders of that.
“They know the deal,” coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “They know tournament baseball. You want to stay out of the loser’s bracket as long as you can. They know the value in this particular tournament of the days off and how it sets you up if you win the first two games. There’s no need to talk about it. You just need to go play a good ballgame.”
In 2010, the Horned Frogs lost to UCLA 6-3 in the second game.
In 2014, they lost to Virginia 3-2 in 15 innings in the second game.
Tuesday, they face Vanderbilt, which won on a walk-off home run Monday in the completion of a suspended game against Cal State Fullerton.
“It really doesn’t matter what we did in the past,” Horned Frogs center fielder Cody Jones said. “It’s what we do tomorrow. And right now, we’re preparing to win that one.”
Once a team has landed in the loser’s bracket, it is a hard road to climb, even after a win in the opener.
Tuesday’s loser will have to play and win on Thursday, Friday and Saturday to reach the championship. The winner will need only to win either Friday or Saturday – having given itself two chances by remaining undefeated – to reach the championship round.
TCU almost did that in 2010. The Horned Frogs defeated Florida State in a loser’s bracket game to reach and win a rematch against UCLA. But UCLA, having suffered only its first loss at that point, came back and won the game the next day.
It is a taxing effort that tests a pitching staff.
TCU appears equipped for such a run, if necessary. The Horned Frogs would still have two legitimate starting pitchers to turn to for extra games.
But the best course remains to start 2-0. That would allow two days off and time to perhaps bring back Sunday’s winning pitcher, Preston Morrison, for a Friday or Saturday start and maybe a relief turn in the championship series.
At a mininum, a 2-0 start would reduce the number of victories needed for the national championship to as little as three. For the TCU-Vandy loser, going through the loser’s bracket might mean five victories in six games in seven days.
But that’s the big picture. The Horned Frogs are thinking little picture – what’s in front of them, and that is Vanderbilt.
“Any time you’re in this thing, you’re going to be playing great teams,” Schlossnagle said. “Whether it’s in the winner’s bracket or the loser’s bracket, it comes down to how you play.”
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407
College World Series
TCU vs. Vanderbilt
7 p.m. Tuesday, ESPN
TD Ameritrade Park, Omaha, Neb.
Winner vs. TBD, 7 p.m. Friday
Loser vs. Fullerton/LSU winner, 2 p.m. Thursday
Records: TCU 50-13, Vanderbilt 47-19