Baseball season recap: Rebuilding turns to reloading after surprise CWS trip


This year saw the third straight “Frog-pile” for TCU baseball. (AP Photo/Sam Craft)

By Grant McGalliard

Last season, the TCU baseball team was supposed to be rebuilding. Construction took them all the way to Omaha.

The Frogs were one win away from the College World Series finals, but lost back-to-back games to Coastal Carolina.

Instead of mourning the loss, let’s celebrate the tremendous success of last season.

The Frogs made their third straight trip to Omaha, with a treasure trove of young talent. They proved that head coach Jim Schlossnagle and his staff earned their pay raise and alleviated any fears of a depleted pitching staff.

At first glance, it didn’t look like the Frogs would make a deep tourney run. TCU even lost its alumni game to the old Frogs, after projected ace Rex Hill gave up early runs.

TCU lost its official opening game, too, against Loyola Marymount, but righted the ship by ripping off a 7-game win streak, including a sweep of the Shriners Hospitals for Children Classic in Houston.

The Frogs lost just three games before beginning Big 12 Conference play, but were unable to dominate in the conference like they had in the past.

TCU lost four series against Big 12 opponents and finished with a 16-10 record that left them in third place heading into the conference tournament.

There, the Frogs made it to the championship game, where a huge lead against West Virginia was wasted, and the game went into extra innings.

That’s when Luken Baker, freshman DH and waking nightmare for opposing pitchers, displayed the first inkling of how vital he’d be all postseason and launched a walk-off championship-winning home run in the bottom of the 10th inning.

That moonshot sent the Frogs to the postseason, where they swept the Fort Worth Regional on a rainy June weekend.

The College Station Super Regional was next (Baker hit a home run there, too, and Jared Janczak was electric in his Friday start), where TCU knocked off the Aggies for the second consecutive year to go to Omaha.

Baker’s emergence was one of many outstanding individual performances this season. Josh Watson, Austen Wade, and Elliott Barzilli hit the ball well, and Janczak and Brian Howard submitted several dominating pitching performances.

Howard, in particular, was overwhelming on the mound, especially when the pressure was at its highest. His win against Texas A&M in the clinching game of the College Station Super Regional provided a spark of energy and motivation for his team.

The Frogs won their first game at the College World Series, when — you guessed it — Baker hit a bomb in the top of the 9th inning to come back and beat Texas Tech. TCU beat The Coastal Carolina Chanticleers in the second game, too, and sat in the driver’s seat, one win away from the final.

They’d stay one win away. The Chanticleers were a team of destiny, bound and determined to knock off the giants of the game on their way to a stunning title, and the Frogs were just one giant on their checklist.

This year, the goal isn’t to make it to the College World Series. It’s to win it. The talent is certainly there, with everyone but Brian Trieglaff and Dane Steinhagen set to return.

The Frogs will likely begin the season ranked No. 1, or somewhere close to it, and hopefully this will be the year Jim Schlossnagle’s team finishes at No. 1.