TCU (42-15, 16-10 Big 12) is trying to make it to Omaha for the third consecutive year, and the fourth time in the last seven years.
The Frogs have been paired with Arizona State, Gonzaga, and Oral Roberts in the Fort Worth regional, held from Friday to Sunday at Lupton Stadium.
How they got here
In the past, head coach Jim Schlossnagle’s teams have been known for their dominant pitching staffs, with names like Preston Morrison, Brandon Finnegan, and Riley Ferrell taking the mound for the Frogs.
This year, especially in the Big 12 Tournament, a rotating cast of pitchers hobbled by injuries and inconsistency have relied on the offense to provide run support at higher levels.
And the bats have delivered.
Led by freshman phenom Luken Baker, who leads the team with a .484 on-base percentage and currently holds a 29-game hitting streak, the Frogs are getting on base at high rates and providing their pitchers with all the help they need.
The Frogs won 24 games by more than 5 runs this season, and were 20-0 when scoring over 10 runs.
Baker assaulted the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark’s left field scoreboard with 4 home runs in the Big 12 Tournament, including a 10th inning walk-off winner in the title game against West Virginia that gave the Frogs their 2nd Big 12 title in 3 years.
Still, the freshman said he’s not dwelling on past success.
“Coach has really talked to us and taught us how to never have a high and never have a low,” Baker said Thursday. “It’s just playing baseball.”
A large part of the mentality of not trying to ride a wave of momentum may come from Schlossnagle’s view on the unpredictability of postseason baseball, which he outlined Thursday.
“It’s never about the best team, it’s about the team that plays the best game that day,” Schlossnagle said. “That’s why I think postseason college baseball is as exciting of a brand of college athletics as there is.”
“So many things can change. You can be the number one seed in the country and not make it to Omaha, and you can be the 4 seed in a regional and be in the loser’s bracket right out of the gate, like Fresno State was, and win the national championship.”
TCU will “just play baseball” next against Oral Roberts University tonight at 6:30 p.m. No changes due to weather have been announced, although the teams couldn’t take the field at Lupton Stadium for open practice yesterday.
Arizona State Sun Devils
ASU comes in to Fort Worth as the second seed in the regional. The Sun Devils went 34-21 on the year and were 16-14 in the Pac-12.
Arizona State brings a strong pitching staff, led by ace Seth Martinez, who sports a 9-3 record and a 2.08 ERA, the lowest of any starter in the Fort Worth regional.
Offensively, the Sun Devils are led by junior infielder David Greer. Greer has a .344 batting average and is tied for the team lead with 8 home runs.
ASU doesn’t score in bunches, having put 10 runs on the board just 5 times this season. What’s more important for them is scoring first — they’re 28-5 when they take the first lead of the game, and 6-16 when their opponents score first.
Gonzaga Bulldogs — a familiar face
This is the second trip that Gonzaga has made from Spokane to Fort Worth this season. The Bulldogs dropped a season series 1-2 to TCU in March.
Gonzaga is 35-19 on the year and went 18-9 in the WCC. They’re the third seed in the Fort Worth regional.
Gonzaga has a solid cast of hitters, including Tyler Frost and Taylor Jones, who can hit for a mix of power and average.
Still, the Bulldogs rely on their pitching staff for wins. Gonzaga is 25-3 when their opponents score fewer than 5 runs.
Oral Roberts Golden Eagles
TCU’s opponent in the first game rides in on a 3 game win streak, including a 14-1 win over IPFW in the Summit League conference championship.
ORU, the fourth and final seed, was 38-19 during the season and 22-8 in conference. Their offense was led by sophomore catcher Matt Whatley, who has a .468 on-base percentage and is tied for the team lead with 8 home runs.
Their pitching staff is solid from top to bottom. They enter the regional with a 3.90 overall ERA.
TCU’s Schlossnagle said he’s anticipating a tough matchup from the Golden Eagles.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for their program,” Schlossnagle said. “We know that they have an incredible amount of NCAA tournament experience.”
“I promise you, there are 15 other host sites that, when they saw Oral Roberts was coming here, they breathed a sigh of relief,” he said.
Gonzaga and Arizona State will play the opening game of the regional at 2 p.m. Friday.