“The Everything School,” a catchy slogan adorning TikToks and billboards on the road to Omaha, congratulates and acclaims TCU baseball’s climax of what has been the ultimate season for Horned Frog athletics overall. It was a tough beginning in Omaha for TCU as the Tulsa Tornados (current power-outage puns inadvertent) from Oral Roberts overcame a three-run deficit in the top of the ninth to beat TCU 6-5 and send them to the loser’s bracket to face elimination against Virginia. What followed was slow baseball at its finest: full counts, stout defense, and many of TCU’s four runs coming from sacrifice fly balls. In the end, the Wahoos were sent packing, and the Frogs advanced from elimination for an eventual rematch with ORU yesterday.
Through eight games of the men’s College World Series, the run differential between the winners and losers is 11, with most affairs being of the single-run flavor. Skipper Kirk Saarloos and company changed that on Tuesday afternoon with the most dominant performance of the series thus far. The Horny Toads downed the Golden Eagles 6-1 during a wild afternoon — each team stranded loaded bases; an ORU fielder forced a Frog off third base by sliding into him, resulting in an out and a 10-minute review; and Oral Roberts logged fewer hits (seven) than the aggregate number of pitchers that appeared (nine).
The road to redemption from the Frogs’ opening loss, which puts them a game down against Florida on Wednesday, is very difficult. The Gators are the second overall seed, and the Frogs will have to beat them on consecutive days to grant themselves amnesty and reset for a championship series against either Wake Forest (top overall seed) or Tennessee (who is in the same situation against the Deacons as the Frogs are against Florida).
Saarloos is familiar with the position and opponent, as TCU’s last MCWS appearance was a first-round loss to Florida and the Frogs hopped back to win three straight before washing out against the Gators in the knockout game preceding the finals, landing just short. This will be the third time the Frogs have been among the final four baseball teams playing (’10, ’17). The Diamond Frogs are the fifth TCU varsity sport this school year to make either the final four in their postseason tournament or finish the season ranked among the top four (football, women’s rifle, beach volleyball, tennis, baseball).
Frogball’s comeback success in Omaha marks a momentous accomplishment that only our Fort Worth university can claim. TCU is the only school to reach the college football playoff, NCAA men’s basketball tournament, and men’s College World Series in the same year — ever. Obviously — or maybe it isn’t, but it will be after I point it out — the college football playoff is the bottleneck of that statistic. The four-team arrangement is younger than a decade, and only 14 schools have ever appeared. Yet even in 10 years, TCU football disrespected every analyst by finishing an undefeated regular season after replacing a generational coach in Gary Patterson. Not bad for the smallest school ever to appear in the modern National Championship Game and the second smallest (with a slightly larger student body than Notre Dame) to ever appear in a semifinal.
While all the hoopla of football season raged, women’s futbol sturdily held what has become an extremely high standard by qualifying for their seventh consecutive postseason and second straight Sweet 16 appearance.
Women’s rifle, though competing in a smaller pool of schools than other sports, was national runner-up for the third consecutive year since winning their last national title in 2019. Men’s basketball made their typically strong start to the season before being beaten up a bit toward the end yet managed a second-round appearance before losing by three to Gonzaga, who made the Final Four. Men’s tennis exceeded their own standard of excellence by repeating as national indoor champions and matched coach David Roditi’s best career finish by making the national team outdoor semifinal. Women’s tennis, a program on the rise, took a page out of basketball coach Jamie Dixon’s playbook and just missed their postseason tournament, instead utilizing the opportunity to win the women’s tennis NIT. The Frogs on horseback also qualified for their national semifinal and lost a tough dual match to crosstown rival SMU, who would go on to claim the national title against Auburn. Women’s beach volleyball, which has existed for only nine seasons, finished third nationally after going 37-3 and was bested only in their tournament by USC, who moved on to claim the title.
Then baseball, who despite being in only the second year of the Kirk Saarloos’ era, overcame an average midseason to own the month of May, chase Arkansas out of their own regional, and finish as at least one of the four best teams in the nation.
The most baffling part of this, to me, is that TCU has done it without coaches who had become names so well-known they seemed bigger than the programs themselves. That hasn’t happened. It even, for a time, felt like the departure of Chris Del Conte to UT was a strike against little TCU and that new frontman Jeremiah Donati would be rolling the proverbial stone uphill, but quite the opposite has occurred. Fort Worth still doesn’t seem like the place anymore for coaches to go and establish a cushy retirement. Winning, and winning now, are the standards. Those expectations bring their own baggage, and it’ll be an important cultural change to monitor in the coming years. Schools like Texas and Maroon Texas are great examples of how expectations go sideways with too many big spenders demanding success yesterday. We should bask in the golden purple glow while it shines.
There are undoubtedly more important years to you and your family, like when your children were born or when you were married or started a life-changing business venture or career, but for Fort Worth and the Horned Frogs, 2022-’23 has been a culmination of good fortune, piles of cash, and laserlike focus to craft Texas Christian University into a powerhouse athletic program. The success experienced by Frog Nation this year will be difficult to replicate and maybe impossible to better.