In the long, distinguished history of the College World Series, the state of Texas has never sent three schools to the Final 8 in Omaha. That changes this weekend when TCU, Texas and Tech Tech join the party.
Besides Texas, only the states of Florida and California have accomplished the feat. It certainly improves the state’s odds of winning the championship.
For the University of Texas, it’s old hat. This is the Longhorns’ 35th appearance in Omaha, and they’re out for their seventh championship. For Texas Tech, it’s a whole new thing. The Red Raiders have never been to the College World Series.
“The guys that were here last year really felt like they let this program down,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said.
For TCU, though, it’s a shot at redemption.
The Horned Frogs went to the College World Series for the first time in 2010. In that tournament, the team reached the semifinals but was knocked out by UCLA. In fact, both of TCU’s losses came to the Bruins.
Two years later, the Horned Frogs were poised to return to Omaha. But they ran into those pesky Bruins once again, losing in the Super Regionals.
Eight members of the 2012 team were in the dugout last weekend when TCU exorcised that demon, as they defeated UCLA’s neighbor, Malibu-based Pepperdine. TCU did it with a dramatic final at-bat in game 3 of the best-of-three series, scoring two runs to eke out the win. The Horned Frogs pulled it off using, of all things, a suicide squeeze bunt to score the winning run.
“The guys I’ve been here with, [the CWS is] all we’ve ever talked about,” TCU’s Kevin Cron, one of those eight players, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I’m proud of my guys for hanging in there and staying tough. It’s a pretty unbelievable feeling.”
Dig a little deeper and you realize reaching Omaha this year isn’t just about avenging those stinging losses to UCLA. Those eight Horned Frogs and their teammates followed up that 2012 Super Regional loss with a lost 2013 season that saw TCU miss the NCAA postseason for the first time in head coach Jim Schlossnagle’s 11 years in Fort Worth.
TCU was highly motivated, and it showed. The Horned Frogs won 27 of their final 30 regular-season games, won their first Big 12 championship and earned a national seed in the NCAA baseball tournament for the first time. The seed guaranteed them home-field advantage throughout their run to Omaha.
Schlossnagle talked about his players’ motivation entering the tournament, saying the bitter taste of last season fueled this amazing roll. “The guys that were here last year really felt like they let this program down,” he said. “I’ve heard them talk about that.”
Now the only letdown concerning these feisty Horned Frogs is in Omaha, where they open the tournament Saturday against Texas Tech. If the team can get past the Red Raiders, TCU will get a second chance at its first College World Series championship.