Excitement abounded last week as TCU baseball tried to shed a sub-par season and start fresh in the Big 12 championship tournament. If you missed all the fun, you’re in the right place.
Game 1: Wednesday, vs. Oklahoma State
The third-seeded Cowboys were a tough ask in the opening game. OSU, basically playing at home in Oklahoma City, are 11th-ranked and 2-1 against the Frogs this season. Stocky Stater Colin Simpson struck first in this affair by belting a homer in the bottom of the second inning off Frog ace Nick Lodolo. Hunter Wolfe stayed true to his first name and sniped a fastball in the next inning to even the score for TCU. Lodolo was lured into an inadvisable shootout in the sixth and surrendered a walk along with a pair of hits and eventually another homerun that left the Frogs in a 5-2 hole. Purple bats remained quiet and managed only one additional run. Frogs moved to the elimination bracket immediately, just one step closer to a permanent summer break.
Game 2: Thursday, vs. Oklahoma
What do Frogs do when backed into a corner? If you’re a genuine Texas horned lizard, you might spit blood out of your eyes and swell up to twice your size to appear more menacing. If you’re a TCU Frog, you swing! This game shredded Big 12 tournament record books for all the right reasons. OU started the scoring in the second with a sacrifice fly to notch a 1-0 lead. The Frogs answered in the fourth, and answered, and answered again. Eighteen batters appeared, 14 runs scored, and 11 hits were bashed (four singles, two doubles, two triples, three homers) during this fourth inning flurry of Horned offense.Sooners took an extended stretch and were eliminated by TCU 15-3.
Game 3: Friday and Saturday, vs. Baylor
Success was in short supply against the Bears this season. Their conference series was an embarrassment, and second-seeded Baylor dominated purple pitching the last three times these squads squabbled. Wolfe’s bat, still sizzling from the Sooner bashing, blasted a triple to start the third before two singles from fellow Frogs Josh Watson and Austin Henry built a three-run lead. Wolfe and Watson encored in the seventh to fabricate another run from a walk, wild pitch, and single. It can’t be overemphasized how dominant Frog hurler Brandon Williamson was against the Bears. The junior college transfer stymied a normally electric green-and-gold batting order for seven innings, allowing only two runs with the help of focused fielding from his Froggy friends. Local storms forced a nearly 12-hour delay, and the I-35 rivals returned to their hotels and agreed to start again on Saturday. The next morning was mercifully benign. Neither squad altered the scoreboard, and the Frogs eliminated Baylor 5-2 with their first win over the Baptist baseballers this season.
Game 4: Saturday, vs. Oklahoma State
After eliminating Baylor, TCU waited patiently for Texas Tech and West Virginia to conclude to face OSU again. The Cowboys were still unbeaten, and Coach Jim Schlossnagle’s miracle Frogs would have to best them twice to advance to the championship game. The good guys worked quickly and scored three runs to start the game before adding three more to hold a comfortable 6-1 lead when the fourth inning concluded. Jared Janczak pitched a gem until the end of the sixth but was noticeably losing control and velocity before being replaced. The seventh inning raised the collective blood pressure of Frog Nation via a Cade Cabbiness grand slam that embarrassed TCU’s bungling bullpen, which required three pitchers to escape the inning. The Frogs, who had led by six runs, were now knotted up headed to the eighth, and the Cowboys seemed to have all the momentum. I guess these Frogs aren’t physics majors and don’t care about Newton’s laws. TCU punched back immediately with a five-run, six-hit eighth inning to retake the lead 11-6 before adding two runs for good measure in the ninth to win 13-6 and force a playback against the Pokes. The second game was originally scheduled for approximately 11pm Saturday night, but the threat of rain pushed the do-or-die affair to Sunday.
Game 5: Sunday, vs. Oklahoma State
Sunday sucks for TCU baseball. I was instantly irate when the weather deleted the prospect of midnight baseball (the best kind) and knew we’d have been better off Saturday night even after playing all day. As expected, Schlossnagle’s sluggers were sloppy to start. OK State scored four runs between the first two innings thanks in large part to fielding errors that had seemed largely absent in earlier tournament tiffs. TCU turned aggressive base-running and a slew of singles into four runs to tie the game by the end of the fourth inning. Wolfe continued anchoring the offense with an RBI double in the sixth to put his Froggies ahead by a run before surrendering the lead in the bottom of the inning thanks to another fielding error. Both squads logged only one hit each before extra innings were required to resolve the 5-5 elimination semifinal. The top of the 10th looked promising for the purple after Henry hit a leadoff homer. Unfortunately, his brethren squandered additional opportunities by grounding into a double play and then striking out and stranding a runner in scoring position. Christian Funk (an Okie batter, not a music genre) inflicted instant damage via a single-turned-triple due to yet another Frog fielding error. The Cowboys walked off in extra innings and eliminated the five-error Frogs 11-10. The Cowboys advanced and beat West Virginia to win the tournament.
Toad to Omaha?
Big 12 bracketologists prognosticated the Frogs would need to win the conference tournament to be selected to appear in a regional. Luckily, the experts were wrong. Frog baseball is likely the only program that receives the benefit of the doubt because of their long-term success. Third-seeded TCU will face the Cal Golden Bears in the Fayetteville regional on Friday. A four-team regional tourney favors our Frogs more than the prolonged conference tournament. Solid starting pitching along with confident bats provide an opportunity for Schlossnagle to reappear at a super-regional in an otherwise downtrodden season.