Head coach Jim Scholssnagle doesn’t want to go down in history like another team who made four straight trips to the championship round of the playoffs, the Buffalo Bills of the 1990’s.
The Bills reached the Super Bowl every season from 1990 to 1993, but they never came home with the Lombardi Trophy. Today, there’s a documentary on their missing rings.
“I don’t want to become the Buffalo Bills,” head coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “It’s something I’ve thought about. But it’s a lot different. We’re not going to play one game, like the Super Bowl. We’re going to play a tournament. Tournament baseball is so volatile.”
The Horned Frogs have tasted victory in Omaha: they’re 8-8 in four CWS appearances and have reached the national semifinals three times, including last season, which was the closest they’ve been to the final round.
Reaching the semifinals after winning their first two games, they had two opportunities to eliminate Coastal Carolina and advance to the national championship series. TCU proceeded to lose two in a row and the Chanticleers won the national championship in three games against Arizona.
“At this point, after doing it two times, it would not be satisfying to come home empty-handed,” said right fielder Austen Wade, a junior who will play in his third College World Series.
Catcher Evan Skoug, who is also playing in his third world series, is ready for a win.
“Coach says there’s never a bad day in Omaha,” Skoug said. “But the last two years, when we finished our season, it was a pretty bad day.”
While getting there and staking a claim as one of the best eight college baseball teams in the nation, the Horned Frogs are tired of tasting defeat to end their season.
“Last year was bitter,” Wade said. “We put ourselves in a great position by winning the first two games. We’re in the driver’s seat and then suddenly, things just don’t fall our way. That’s not how it should have gone last year.”
The Horned Frogs spent a year thinking about last year, and they’re back once more.
“We just kept it in the back of our minds, kept that feeling with us,” pitcher Jared Janczak said. “Didn’t take it the wrong way. Just remembered what it was like. Took it into our preparation.”
Skoug said the feeling has fueled them to get back to Omaha again.
“We carried that with us in the offseason,” Skoug said. “Seven a.m. weights come early in fall workouts, but we know that it’s going to get us in situations like this.”
In Game 1, TCU will be the lower-seeded team for the first time in their postseason when it faces off Sunday against Florida. Next comes Louisville, a team with more victories than TCU, or Texas A&M, which has plenty of motivation for a game against the team that eliminated the Aggies in consecutive Super Regionals.
Top-ranked Oregon State sits atop the other side of the bracket, losers in just four of the 58 games the Beavers have played this season.
“All these programs are big-time names,” Wade said. “I think we belong up there. I think we’ve got an incredible team to go up there and actually accomplish the mission we talked about at the beginning of the fall.”