Sharing with friends and family is admirable. Sharing amongst rivals and enemies blows, yet the spring men’s sports at TCU seem to be doing a lot of that lately. It started with men’s tennis in late April. The Frogs, who had been undefeated during conference play to that point, had already clinched a share of the Big 12 title by beating Texas with only Baylor left in their final home match. The purple volleyers laid an egg, and thus the Big 12 men’s title was sliced into thirds by the Horns, Bears, and Frogs who had all beaten one another. It turns out there wasn’t inherent shame in the result as we’d learn from the NCAA tournament.
The Horned Frogs, a 7th seed in a 64-team draw, aced their first-round opponent, Arkansas, 4-0 before beating Arizona State and Ohio State 4-1 each. Baylor was waiting in the quarterfinals, who TCU hadn’t beaten since the indoor season during the winter. The Bears outlasted the Frogs by a lone single’s set during their conference tournament matchup, but the good guys just can’t seem to peak in the correct spots to overcome the second-ranked and seeded Wacoites. Even Bertus Kruger, a veteran Frog at line six, saw his first-set lead disappear on the cusp of clinching and would eventually drop five consecutive games and the first frame with it. The final score of 4-1 mirrored the match which the Frogs dropped to split the conference championship trophy and the Bears advanced through the Final Four, defeating Tennessee, and eventually lost in the national championship against Florida who had beaten Texas on the other side of the bracket.
The Big 12 and SEC conferences represented seven of the Elite-8 teams, the only outsider was USC who was defeated by the Longhorns. Our state sent four teams to the quarterfinal round: TCU, UT, Baylor, and Texas A&M. This year was the fourth time the Frogs have at least reached the quarterfinals under coach David Roditi’s tenure, but their conference mates have outpaced them in recent years with another Big 12 team reaching the finals in the last two tournaments. The Frogs weren’t entirely finished after the loss to Baylor, Luc Fomba and Alastair Gray both qualified for the individual singles, as well as the doubles tournaments. Gray suffered an unfortunate opening draw against USC’s Daniel Cukierman (who has been top ranked nationally this season), who Gray beat early in the Spring, but fell in straight sets during the opening round of 64 competitors. Fomba fared better, grinding out three-set matches against opponents from Middle Tennessee State and Mississippi State, before losing to 8-seed Gabriel Decamps from Central Florida. Fomba and Gray won their first match together in the doubles bracket against Mississippi State before succumbing to the pair from USC to officially conclude what was another successful season for Roditi’s Frogs who always seem to be on the cusp, but can’t quite reach the summit as a team.
Coach Jim Schlossnagle’s baseball Frogs enjoyed a strong midseason and had won every Big 12 series except Texas Tech. The Longhorns and Frogs were sitting atop the conference when the Horns visited and claimed Friday and Sunday victories to draw near TCU for the overall conference lead. Since then, the Frogs have lost a series to Louisiana-Monore — though it doesn’t factor into conference standings — and played an important final regular season series at Kansas State.
The Frogs and Wildcats split games in the little apple to set up a championship-deciding Sunday spat. The title was indirectly in the hands of K-State and West Virginia who were simultaneously playing the conference leaders. Texas, who had fallen to WVU in their first game, bounced back on Saturday before bashing the Mountaineers to oblivion on Sunday to the tune of an eight-inning run rule. Meanwhile in Kansas, the Frogs could win on the lord’s day to claim the conference title all on their own. Both purple squads crushed four home runs in the first inning, knotting the score at four runs each heading to the second.
TCU right-hander Charles King (#21) arrived from the bullpen and everything stopped, well at least it did for the Wildcats. King dominated the next eight innings, allowing only five hits with nine strikeouts as his supporting cast built an 8-4 lead before the bottom of the ninth. King, sitting at an even 100 balls pitched, took a seat for senior closer Haylen Green. After retiring the first batter, Green allowed five consecutive hits and a tie game. Green expelled a second batter before allowing an additional hit, and finally a three-run dinger dissolved TCU’s hopes of owning the conference trophy on their own.
An epic meltdown will forever stain this year’s trophy with “co-.” The Horns and Horned Frogs, despite TCU losing the head-to-head series, sit as shared champions with identical 17-7 conference records. Texas Christian’s national rankings have climbed as high as 3rd, but are currently 15th. The Longhorns are 2nd in the land right now. Even still, TCU is still in position to host a super regional series for the upcoming playoffs. The Big 12 tournament in Oklahoma City may prove key to swaying national perception. They started off well by redeeming in an opening round win against KSU. Sadly, these Frogs haven’t been the same since the Texas series, a continuing and concerning trend among the men’s spring sports that seem to peak midseason, and stall when it really matters.