Baseball enter ‘Do or Die’ Big 12 Championship with eyes on NCAA Tournament berth

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An unfamiliar sight to the Horned Frog faithful, TCU Baseball is not guaranteed a spot in the upcoming NCAA Tournament for the first season since 2013 when the team went 29-28 overall and 12-12 in Big 12 play.

The College World Series regulars enter this week’s Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship with a 30-22 overall record and a 10-13 record in league play.

“Our season certainly hasn’t gone the way the last four seasons have gone,” Head Coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “There are no excuses for that. This is definitely a ‘do or die’ tournament for us.”

Following a three-game series against Baylor University in Waco, the Horned Frogs were sitting at 19-17 with postseason chances looking slim to none.

The Frogs went on to win 11 of their next 13 ballgames, including series victories against Texas Tech, West Virginia and a sweep over Lamar University. Schlossnalgle said their “simple approach” generated their success.

Senior designated hitter Michael Landestoy’s experience tells him the team needs to go far in this week’s tournament for an NCAA Tournament berth. Photo by Cristian ArguetaSoto

“We got back home and we got some timely hits to get us going,” Schlossnagle said May 4 when the frogs played Lamar University. “Some experience from Wanhanen and Watson started to show. These guys know where we are in the season and what has to happen for us to have any type of season in late May. It’s all about pitching, defense and timely hitting.”

Limping into this week’s Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship, the Horned Frogs dropped their final series of the regular season to Texas. In the series, the squad was unable to muster more than three runs in each of their three defeats.

“We had been playing pretty well until our trip to Austin this past weekend,” Schlossnagle said. “We’re hoping to pick up on that play over this next week.”

The team understands their precarious fate and will continue their same approach, hoping it leads to more success.

“I’m not a guy who looks into statistics or rankings, but from experience, I’m pretty sure we need to go really deep, if not win the Big 12 Tournament, to have a chance to be in the postseason,” senior designated hitter Michael Landestoy said. “We just need to come out and take it pitch by pitch, game by game. Nothing really changes for us, no matter the stakes. We’re just going to play our brand of baseball that we know and we will be ready to play.”

The No. 6 seed Horned Frogs will open the 2018 Big 12 Championship against the No. 3 seed Texas Tech, the league’s top hitting team. As a team, the Red Raiders hit .311 and boast an on-base percentage of .425.

Five Red Raiders were named to the All-Big 12 first team: infielder Josh Jung, outfielder Grant Little, infielder Gabe Holt, designated hitter Zach Rheams and starting pitcher Caleb Kilian.

Jung and Little hold the honors of being the conference’s top-two hitters. Jung, first in the league, holds a .389 average with 11 home runs and 71 RBIs and Little is hitting at a clip of .374 with 12 home runs and 66 RBIs.

“They’re a huge challenge and an ‘Omaha’ club,” Schlossnagle said. “They’re very athletic and have power and you have to make pitches to them. We finished second in the league in ERA, so I feel good about our pitching. They’re playing some of their best baseball of the season. It should be fun.”

Schlossnagle’s squad was able to earn the series victory over Texas Tech over the season as part of their hot streak late in the season and he hopes his team uses it as a confidence boost.

“I’d say they’re pretty confident knowing they can have success against great teams,” Schlossnagle said. “It’s a new season and everybody resets to zero. I think more lower seeds than higher seeds have won the title. We’re hoping we’re one of those teams.”

TCU’s pitching is faced with a tough task against Texas Tech’s firepower tomorrow evening. Photo by Cristian ArguetaSoto

Landestoy said their past victories over the Red Raiders give the first-year players a confidence boost headed into tomorrow’s contest.

“We’ve played them before and that was a big series for us confidence-wise,” Landestoy said. “They’re going to come ready to play. They’re a good baseball team in all areas. This tournament gives us another chance to prove ourselves. ”

First pitch against the Red Raiders is scheduled for Wednesday evening at 7:30 p.m. at the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City, Okla.