Members of TCU’s fan base have become a bit cynical as they’ve watched the Horned Frog baseball team struggle a bit down the stretch of the season. It’s overtly apparent on fan blogs and from talking to students and alumni.
Maybe it’s a result of the preseason No. 1 ranking after stealing the show in their first-ever appearance at the College World Series last season. Maybe it’s a carry-over from the familiarity with winning that the Rose Bowl Champion TCU football team brought, or maybe it’s a combination of both.
Regardless of the result, Tuesday night’s matchup of No. 11 TCU (26-11) and No. 6 Texas A&M (26-11) was guaranteed to be a key moment in the season. The Frogs had a chance to gain a major RPI-boosting win over the well-respected Aggies. TCU entered the game with incredible momentum following a weekend trip to San Diego State, where they swept the Aztecs.
TCU passed the test in College Station with flying colors, never trailing in the 4-2 victory. Freshman starting pitcher Andrew Mitchell and relievers Trent Appleby, Erik Miller and Stefan Crichton were phenomenal, giving up just four hits as TCU beat the Aggies on three solo home runs and an RBI double. Mitchell recorded the win and Crichton maintained the save.
Despite some fans losing hope, head coach Jim Schlossnagle hasn’t expressed much frustration, apart from last Tuesday’s embarrassing 13-6 loss in Norman to the University of Oklahoma. TCU fans are very fortunate that our coaches and student-athletes are very accessible to the media, and almost even general public for that matter. Because we know the coaches and players on such a personal level, sometimes we are surprised when they don’t agree with our assessment as fans. Even as fans have lost confidence, TCU players and coaches have remained positive and confident in their interviews and play, displaying incredible poise in fighting off a slump.
After the loss at OU, many fans would have liked to have seen Schlossnagle rest one of the weekend starting pitchers — Kyle Winkler, Matt Purke or Steven Maxwell — in San Diego, and pitch one of the veterans in College Station Tuesday evening. Instead, Schlossnagle stood by starter Andrew Mitchell, who gave up just one run on two hits.
Although Miller gave up four runs in only two innings of work when he started against Oklahoma, Schlossnagle stood by Miller and trusted him to get the Horned Frogs out of a bind Tuesday night. After relief pitcher Appleby gave up an RBI triple in the bottom of the 8th to make the score 3-2 TCU, Miller swiftly got the Frogs out of the inning without giving up a hit, leaving an Aggie runner on third base. That’s what good coaches do — they stand by their players, despite outside criticism, to help them fight off adversity.
“I got him to ground out on a 3-2 changeup, and didn’t even notice the train [that was passing through directly behind right field], Miller said.
“It was one of those things where you just have to forget about last Tuesday’s performance. I had two good outings over the weekend in San Diego, so I had confidence going into the game.”
TCU is now on a four-game winning streak, and although Schlossnagle didn’t buy into the hype before the contest, he admitted it was undoubtably a big win.
“This is atmosphere is probably the closest to what will see in a Regional or Super Regional,” Schlossnagle said. “You expect [a good outing] from Appleby or Miller because they’ve been there, but to see the way Crichton and Mitchell played is pretty fun to watch.”
Although 26-11 isn’t an ideal place to be after they hype of last season’s CWS appearance, with 19 regular-season games left to play, TCU is in a place that the majority of college baseball teams envy. Frogs fans are lucky to be able to share in the excitement of watching this team fight off a slump and remain strong and looking forward to quickly-approaching post-season play.
John Andrew Willis is a senior Spanish major from Dallas.