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TCU 360

TCU 360

All TCU. All the time.

TCU 360

The Skiff Orientation Edition: Welcome, Class of 28!
The Skiff Orientation Edition: Welcome, Class of '28!
By Georgie London, Staff Writer
Published May 13, 2024
Advice from your fellow Frogs, explore Fort Worth, pizza reviews and more. 

A trip down memory lane: Key moments, plays that led TCU baseball to College World Series

TCU designated hitter Karson Bowen hits a grand slam to power the Horned Frogs past the DBU Patriots on April 25, 2023. (Photo courtesy of GoFrogs.com)

TCU’s journey to the College World Series had many bumps in the road. In late April, the Horned Frogs’ hopes of an NCAA regional appearance were in serious jeopardy.

“They’ve been playing with their backs against the wall with this kind of mentality for a really long time,” head coach Kirk Saarloos said. “So, I think it’s kind of who they are now.”

Since May 1, 2023, TCU has won 19 of 22; the Frogs swept the Big 12 Tournament, the Fayetteville Super Regional and the Fort Worth Super Regional.

“[The players] deserve all the credit in terms of how hard they’ve worked and where they come from the middle part of the year till now,” Saarloos said.

Saarloos said the team took ownership of the season and continued to play confidently, even when struggling.

To get to Omaha, Nebraska, the Horned Frogs had several low and high points. Here’s a look into the most pivotal moments of the season in chronological order.

Feb 17-19: The College Baseball Showdown

TCU, ranked No. 1 in the Big 12 Conference Preseason Poll, started the season off with a successful weekend at Globe Life Field. They took down Vanderbilt and Arkansas, ranked No. 10 and No. 8, respectively.

The Frogs lost game three to Missouri, scoring eight of their 37 runs of the weekend. Associate head coach TJ Bruce’s offense made a statement, averaging 12.3 runs per game facing elite non-conference competition.

Feb. 24-26: A Lupton wake-up call

The Horned Frogs’ momentum from the opening weekend quickly came to a halt in the first weekend series of the year at Lupton Baseball Stadium. On Friday, the offense was stymied by Florida State’s pitching, tallying two total hits; that’s quite the turnaround from the College Baseball Showdown.

With the series on the line, Florida State’s offense came alive during the Saturday game, scoring five runs off freshman relief pitcher Ben Abeldt in the span of two innings.

“If they look at everything from about middle of April on, [Abledt] is an All-American,” Saarloos said. “He had a tough start.”

Feb. 28 & March 7: Midweek highs and lows

TCU made the short trip to Dallas to take on DBU, a team they hadn’t beaten since 2018. In a pitcher’s duel, the Frogs and Patriots went to extra innings tied at one. In the 13th inning, TCU’s offense came alive, scoring three runs; the Patriots didn’t respond.

“I think pitching won the day today, and then we just got enough at the end,” Saarloos said after the game.

After a winning weekend at the Shriner’s College Classic in Houston, TCU played UT Arlington at Lupton Baseball Stadium. The Frogs lost 8-7 in a game where they couldn’t stop stepping on their own feet.

Catcher Karson Bowen left his position to field a bunt, leaving home uncovered with a runner on third. Then, freshman pitcher Braeden Sloan failed to cover first in two separate instances.

“We didn’t do enough on the mound,” TCU head coach Kirk Saarloos said. “And we didn’t do enough defensively and, you know, we came out, and we didn’t look like we wanted to be here the first two innings.”

March 21-28: Getting the “bad taste” out of the mouth

TCU had lost the first Big 12 Conference series of 2023 to Oklahoma. After, they had six games in eight days, seven of which were in Fort Worth.

TCU won all six games and completed the sweep of Kansas with a complete game shutout from pitcher Cam Brown.

“Sometimes the best cure to not playing your best is just playing more baseball,” Saarloos said after the series victory. “You know, and sometimes it’s not practice, but it’s actually playing baseball. So being able to play five games this week, I think it came at a great time.”

March 31; Friday night collapse in Lubbock

In a Friday night matchup against the Texas Tech Red Raiders, the Horned Frogs were up 12-6 in the sixth inning. The wind was blowing out, and balls were getting caught in the jet stream.

Texas Tech cut the lead with a four-run inning, but TCU responded with one of its own. The Red Raider offense was already hot; in the seventh inning, it was scorching.

Texas Tech capitalized off TCU’s pitching woes and scored nine runs in the seventh inning to take a commanding lead. The Frogs ended up losing and also dropped the weekend series.

“The only thing that you can do is stay together and not listen to anybody on the outside,” Saarloos said, reflecting on the series in Lubbock. “Everybody is going to have an opinion, but the only opinion that matters is the 36 guys that we have on our roster and our coaches and our support staff, and that never wavered.”

April 21-23: The low point in Morgantown

TCU captured a weekend series win in Fort Worth against Oklahoma State. They couldn’t build on the momentum, dropping a series to UNC Wilmington.

The Frogs needed a win; the were swept by the Mountaineers, who won in dominating fashion.

In the Saturday game, TCU held a three-run lead in the sixth inning. Control issues, a flurry of base hits and an error allowed the Mountaineers to score six and take a sizable lead.

Third baseman Brayden Taylor said West Virginia was one of the low points in the season.

“We needed to figure something out because that’s not how TCU baseball is supposed to be played,” Taylor said in reflection.

April 25: A grand slam from the freshman

Once again, the Frogs were set to take on the Dallas Baptist Patriots. This time, the game was at Lupton Stadium.

Heading into the eighth inning, TCU trailed 5-3. The Frogs were trying to bounce back after a sweep in Morgantown and needed every win they could muster; they were creeping toward the postseason danger zone.

With one swing of the bat, TCU took a two-run lead. Freshman catcher Karson Bowen hit a go-ahead grand slam, sending Lupton Stadium into a frenzy.

Saarloos said the grand slam was one of the turning points of the season.

“It was almost like [Bowen] came running off the field with a huge smile on his face and felt the excitement of the dugout,” Saarloos said. “It was … almost relief and … just joy.”

May 14: Winning the right way

TCU lost a series to Texas to end April. Once May began, the Horned Frogs started to build momentum.

Kirk Saarloos and Co. won a series against Cal State Fullerton and swept Baylor. The Frogs finished the series against the Bears with a 10-4 victory.

After the game, Saarloos wasn’t satisfied with the team’s performance; the Frogs scored six runs in the first and took their foot off the gas, cruising to victory. Centerfielder Elijah Nunez said the team learned a valuable lesson.

“Even when you can win, you can lose,” Nunez said. “You can beat teams that aren’t as good, but if you’re beating them in a way that’s not the baseball … you’re used to playing, then you lose.”

May 20: A season-saving defensive play

Even with the solid run in May, the Horned Frogs still needed a few more wins to ensure a regional appearance. In a game that would decide the series against Kansas State in Manhattan, the Frogs led 4-1 heading to the bottom of the ninth inning.

With closer Garrett Wright on the mound, the Wildcats scored two runs. They needed one more to tie.

Kyan Lodice stepped up to the plate. Soon, the Wildcats were down to their last strike. Lodice got a hold of one, and it was heading toward the center field fence.

Nunez sprinted toward the fence and leaped, hauling the home run ball back into the field of play. The robbery ended the series and ensured TCU would be a four-seed in the upcoming Big 12 Tournament.

“That catch is, probably, besides going to Omaha now, is one of the greatest moments of my life,” Nunez said.

Saarloos said everyone at Bill Snyder Family Stadium knew it had a chance to be a home run. Then, Nunez came out of nowhere and ended the game.

“Probably the coolest ending I’ve ever been a part of in my baseball career,” Saarloos said. “… It doesn’t matter what it looks like or what’s happened. You know, we’re gonna find a way, and that’s what they’ve been doing.”

The Frogs were hot. Even though the team faced struggles throughout the season, Nunez said the team never lost confidence.

“We knew who we were going to be and we knew what we could accomplish,” Nunez said. “And now we’re here. So, it never was doubted.”

May 24 – June 10: Sweeping through the playoffs

When the playoffs began, the Frogs weren’t just hot. They were scorching.

A month prior, the TCU was fighting to keep its season alive. They started the playoffs with a statement victory, sweeping the Big 12 Tournament.

The Horned Frogs swept the Fayetteville Regional Tournament, beating Arkansas, the No. 3 national seed, in its own ballpark.

They also swept Indiana State in the Fort Worth Super Regional, punching their ticket to the College World Series.

“There’s a lot of people outside of our locker room that probably didn’t think we would be here a month or two ago,” Saarloos said. “The resiliency and our team and our program obviously — the guys did the work, and we’re here because of them.”

Taylor said the goal was to stick with the process.

“Even when the process was going pretty bad for us,” Taylor said. “But once we started … we just continued to roll with it.”

June 16: College World Series Loss

lost the opening game of the College World Series to Oral Roberts, failing to close the game in the ninth inning with a three-run lead. Now, they’ll have to do things the “hard way” in the losers’ bracket, according to Saarloos.

“And the great thing about our team is, I think, their resiliency and their ability to overcome hard times,” Saarloos said. “They’ve done it. They have the whole year. I’m not worried about that one second.”

Up next

TCU baseball will face Virginia in an elimination game at 1 p.m. Sunday at Charles Schwab Field.

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