Inside TCU baseball’s veteran leadership, mentality ahead of Fort Worth Super Regional

TCU third baseman Brayden Taylor launches a home run to right field in a 10-8 loss to Florida State on Feb. 25, 2023. (Photo courtesy of

By Charles Baggarly

TCU, on a nine-game winning streak, is set to face Indiana State in the Fort Worth Super Regional. It’s the last stop on the road to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, but only one team will complete the journey.

In the back wall of the classroom at Lupton Baseball Stadium, there’s a road to Omaha sign with pictures of TCU’s five College World Series teams in 2010, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017. According to TCU head coach Kirk Saarloos, the veterans are tired of looking up at past accomplishments while not having a footprint on the program.

“There’s a lot of guys that have put a lot of time and effort and blood sweat and tears into TCU baseball,” Saarloos said.

He specifically mentioned returning upperclassmen, which includes designated hitter Kurtis Byrne, third baseman Brayden Taylor, centerfielder Elijah Nunez, and relief pitchers Luke Savage and Garrett Wright.

Since May 1, the Frogs have won 17 of 19 games. Prior to the run, TCU was trending toward not making the postseason.

Saarloos said the veterans “deserve all the credit” in terms of galvanizing the team and continuing to believe in the process.

“That’s the reason why we’re here,” Saarloos said. 

The Frogs are arguably the hottest team in college baseball. The Sycamores are hot too; the Missouri Valley Conference champions swept the Terre Haute Tournament.

Saarloos, of course, wants TCU to win ballgames, but he puts an emphasis on winning while playing the right way.

“And then the wins will take care of themselves,” Saarloos said.

The veterans’ mentality

What is TCU focusing on before the biggest series since 2017?

For Byrne, playing team offense as a complete unit is key. As an individual, Byrne is focusing on winning pitches, controlling his breathing at the plate and not making the moment too big.

“It’s one day at a time,” Byrne said. “It’s one game at a time right now and one pitch at a time. So, that’s really what we’re trying to focus on.”

Taylor called Indiana State a really good ball club. he mentioned the Horned Frogs will give it “all they got” and expects the Sycamores and their elite pitching staff to do the same.

“If they’re gonna put it in the zone, we gotta be ready to hit it,” Taylor said.

The veteran third baseman focuses on what he can control, simplifying the game.

“It’s not about the best team, it’s about who plays the best,” Taylor said. “And, you know, everybody at this time of the year is good. Everybody should be playing good baseball.”

Second baseman Tre Richardson, a veteran in his first season at TCU, has been playing hero ball as of late. In the Fayetteville Regional Tournament, Richardson hit four home runs, tripling his total in 2023.

“We’re just trying to get one percent better every single day,” Richardson said. “And at this point, we’ve gotten better, and now we’re two wins away from going to Omaha.”

Richardson has been a vocal leader. His communication and work to hold teammates accountable was something TCU needed.

“That’s part of the reason I came over here is, you know, to use experience and use the experience that I had from playing college baseball for two and a half years,” Richardson said.

Offensively against Indiana State, TCU will focus on playing situational baseball, something associate head coach TJ Bruce preaches. Richardson said taking advantage of various opportunities the game provides is how teams win in June.

“The biggest thing for us is just get them on, get them over, get them in,” Richardson said. “And if we can do that every single time we’ll be good.”

To Richardson, one of the biggest aspects of the playoff run is the team playing for each other.

“Nobody wants to play nine innings with us,” Richardson said. “That’s just the reality of it. I mean, you get a lead, and it’s never safe.”

The Horned Frogs will take on the Sycamores at 4 p.m. Friday at Lupton Baseball Stadium. TCU will be the away team and the contest will be televised on ESPNU.