No, this wasn’t the first time that a TCU baseball team has felt the sting of being eliminated at the College World Series.
But this one is going to leave a mark.
The Horned Frogs had two chances to beat Coastal Carolina, a senior-heavy team composed of seemingly scrappy over-achievers from a conference nobody could find on the map.
Two tries to advance to a place where they’d never gone before, the College World Series finals.
Two chances to win one game. But, instead, the Frogs froze in their tracks and were eliminated 7-5.
They stopped making plays. They stopped making pitches. They stopped getting timely hits.
The Chanticleers, named for a rooster in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, gave the Frogs a wake-up they will long remember.
“Yes, we should learn from this experience,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “But right now it’s disappointment. And it’s real disappointment, as disappointed as I’ve ever been leaving this great city, because we had the club to win this thing.”
Schlossnagle is so right. Some might contend that his team was too untested, one year too early to be thinking of the World Series, but the Frogs’ march to Omaha and into the tournament’s final four teams proved that they belonged.
Schlossnagle was asked about the many returnees he should have from this near-miss club, but he answered, “It’s awful soon to start thinking about next season, because we wanted to win this thing, man.
“We expected to win it, especially after we won the first game.”
In retrospect, it’s going to be hard for TCU to separate the two final games. The first one, a frustrating 4-1 defeat Friday night, seemed to bleed into Saturday’s loss.
In both cases, Coastal Carolina jumped to an early lead. Its confidence clearly swelled. In both games, coach Gary Gilmore’s starting pitchers threw strikes and let the Frogs get themselves out.
Schlossnagle had no such luxury. Starting pitcher Jared Janczak walked the first two men he faced. In the second inning, Janczak surrendered a solo home run to second baseman Tyler Chadwick. And in the third, two singles preceded a long fly ball by G.K. Young that TCU center fielder Dane Steinhagen misplayed into a triple.
Instead of finding the outfield wall before deciding to leap, Steinhagen leaped prematurely and had the ball fall out of his glove.
Schlossnagle, hoping to U-turn the momentum, brought in reliever Brian Trieglaff to start the next inning, and the move backfired, with the Chanticleers ripping five hits and scoring four runs.
Any deficit at TD Ameritrade Park is a major hurdle. A six-run deficit was a mountain.
Schlossnagle made a point, though, of dismissing any public talk about Coastal Carolina being a one-shot Cinderella. The Chanticleers of the Big South Conference have won 53 games, and not all of their victories have come against the Longwoods, Radfords and Campbells on their league schedule.
Coastal moves on to play Arizona in the best-of-three final series that TCU once had within its reach.
“There are no national seeds left here,” Schlossnagle said. “You’ve got to play good baseball.”
Inside he and his Horned Frogs clearly were hurting. They were headed home, empty, after another College World Series.
This one is going to leave a mark.