TCU baseball punches ticket to College World Series for first time since 2017


Charles Baggarly

TCU punched their ticket to the College World Series, defeating Indiana State 6-4 on June 10, 2023.

By Charles Baggarly

FORT WORTH – The long, bumpy road to Omaha is complete.

On Saturday, Lupton Stadium was filled with a record-breaking 8,994 fans hoping to see history. The Horned Frogs delivered for the home crowd, defeating Indiana State 6-4 to win the Fort Worth Super Regional; TCU is advancing to the College World Series for the first time since 2017.

“Every kid grows up dreaming about going to the College World Series,” starting pitcher Sam Stoutenborough said. “To say that we’re about to [play in the College World Series] is something that still hasn’t settled in yet.”

Second baseman Tre Richardson said the emotions were surreal. One year ago, Richardson, a Baylor transfer, committed to TCU.

“[Making the College World Seires] is exactly why I came here,” Richardson said.

Richardson mentioned the team expects to win a ring. They’ll enjoy the moment but soon turn their attention to the next game.

“We’re gonna compete to win a ring,” Richardson said.

Head coach Kirk Saarloos, after the game, told the team to savor the winning moment.

“It’s hard to get to the World Series,” Saarloos said. “It’s really, really hard. And, you know, we went four years in a row and made it look pretty easy, but there was a lot of luck involved in that. Just some bounces our way, and it happened four times in a row, and I think people forget how difficult it is.”

A month ago, TCU was fighting to make a regional tournament. Now, the Horned Frogs are heading to Omaha with an eleven game win streak; they swept the Big 12 Tournament, the Fayetteville Regional and the Fort Worth Super Regional.

Saarloos congratulated Indiana State on a “great season.”

“[Indiana State] was a team that was gritty,” Saarloos said. “They were everything that I thought they were gonna be. They were super tough on the mound, in the batter’s box, defensively.”

Cole Fontenelle leads the offense

It seemed as if the Frog offense wouldn’t get to Sycamore starter Connor Fenlong, who was dealing. Fenlong dominated the opening three innings of the ballgame. At that point, the Horned Frogs hadn’t recorded a hit or a walk.

All of a sudden, the momentum shifted in the fourth inning. Third baseman Brayden Taylor drew a nine-pitch walk, and first baseman Cole Fontenelle hit a double to center field.

Richardson and designated hitter Kurtis Byrne reached on well-placed grounders, tying the ballgame. The Frogs continued the offensive onslaught with base hits from shortstop Anthony Silva and left fielder Luke Boyers; after a Davis ground out, the Frogs had a 5-2 lead.

In the fifth inning, Fontenelle recorded his fourth extra-base hit of the weekend, a solo home run to right field; it was TCU’s final run of the ballgame.

“[Fontenelle] was just the hitter that he’s been all season for us,” Richardson said. “To see him, you know, having the success he had this weekend and also riding into Omaha with him swinging the hot stick like that. I mean, that’s awesome.”

Saarloos mentioned Fontenelle is showing more emotion as of late. In the Fort Worth Super Regional, the first baseman recorded five base hits in seven at-bats, recording three RBIs in the process.

“So [Fontenelle is] enjoying it for sure,” Saarloos said. “I can tell that. You know, he’s pretty stoic, but his personality has come out quite a bit in the last two, three weeks. It’s fun to see.”

Completing the road to Omaha

In the first inning, the Sycamores jumped out to an early lead, finding a few holes. Saarloos said Stoutenborough wasn’t hit hard.

“I thought he was actually pitching fine,” Saarloos said. “They just jumped him. And then he went to a secondary and was able to settle in.”

Stoutenborough said he was moving a bit too quick on the mound.

“In the first inning, you know, my command wasn’t as good as I liked, but I reminded myself … I’ve been in this situation before,” Stoutenborough said.

The veteran starter powered through, tossing five 1/3 innings. He allowed three earned runs, five hits and a walk; Stoutenborough had two strikeouts, letting the defense play behind him.

The Frog defense made zero errors, playing a clean brand of baseball. Third baseman Brayden Taylor had a highlight and the middle infield turned a key double play late in the ballgame.

“I thought it was a very clean baseball game,” Saarloos said. “We didn’t make an error today and made some really good plays.”

Relief pitcher Ben Abeldt took over for Stoutenborough in the sixth inning. In the frame, the freshman allowed an earned run for the first time since April 29th, 2023. Abeldt, usually an elite strike thrower, struggled with control.

“[Abeldt] wasn’t as sharp as he’s been for the last month, and all of a sudden it’s like holy cow, the guy’s human,” Saarloos said.

Saarloos said Abeldt righted the ship after conceding the run. The left hander held the Sycamores off the scoreboard in the seventh and eighth innings.

Abledt had some help from catcher Karson Bowen, who had the play of the day. To end the seventh inning, Bowen executed a back pick to perfection; left fielder Adam Pottinger took a lead on second after a walk, and Bowen made him pay.

Saarloos said the play changed the ballgame and flipped the momentum. Indiana State would’ve had two runners on.

To close things out in the ninth inning, Garrett Wright took the mound. He gave up a lead off single; the next three batters were outs and the Horned Frogs punched their ticket to Omaha.

Up next

Friday is the first day of the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska. With several teams still competing in super regionals, the schedule of games is to be determined.