May 28, 2009

By Amy Farnum Novin

Texas Christian University’s baseball program has been earning a reputation as a national contender over the past few years, and now the Horned Frogs have reached one more step in putting their team on the map as one of the more recognizable names in collegiate baseball. 

The Frogs have been chosen to host an NCAA Regional in Fort Worth, Texas, for the first time in program history, along with earning No. 1 seed honors in the four-team field.  This is the sixth straight year the Frogs have qualified for NCAA Regionals with the run beginning in 2004 – head coach Jim Schlossnagle’s first year at the helm.

TCU, which won the Mountain West Conference regular season crown, is one of only 16 teams to appear in each of the last six NCAA Regionals.  The program, which was established in 1940, had only made two other trips (1956 and 1994) before Schlossnagle took over.

“We’ve done nothing but go up since I’ve been here,” said senior Matt Vern.  “That’s a tribute to our coaches and Coach (Todd) Whitting, our recruiter.  He recruits players here and they expect a lot out of us.  I’ve seen the growing process right before my eyes – we’ve gotten better every single year I’ve been here.”

Vern, a First Team All-MWC first baseman, is one of seven seniors on this year’s squad, including third baseman Matt Carpenter, who is in his fifth year with the program and was a member of Schlossnagle’s first recruiting class.

“His passion for this school and college baseball is the main reason why he’s been so successful,” said Carpenter.  “He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever been around, not just in coaching, but in life.  He’s so dedicated and so passionate and cares so much about all the things about all the things that go into running a successful program.  It’s been a joy to play for him for the last five years.”

Carpenter has been a first-hand witness to the progress of the program longer than anyone.

“I’ve gotten to see us not only become a better team, but the standards have been raised for the type of players that are coming here,” said Carpenter.  “Players from all over the state of Texas and the country want to come to TCU.  We’re starting to get top name guys.  The backing for the program in Fort Worth has grown, and the field has been transformed into one of the best college fields in the country.  It was good when I got here, but it’s improved every year.”

In addition to the improvements TCU has made, the Frogs’ league has also seen stiffer competition and will send Utah and San Diego State to regionals.   It is the first time in the history of the MWC that three teams will be represented.

“The Mountain West Conference has gotten better every year that I’ve been here,” said Vern.  “The talent has gotten stronger and the competition has gotten tougher.  This year was definitively the toughest – we had three teams that were ranked at some point in the season.  It gets you better prepared to play in the postseason.”

This weekend, the Frogs will have an opportunity to showcase their talent in front of the Fort Worth community, and the team is excited about the attention it will bring.

“(Hosting) is the result of a lot of hard work by everyone involved with the program over the last decade and certainly the players on this year's team," said head coach Jim Schlossnagle. "However, while hosting is a huge step for our program, it's not the ultimate goal and we look forward to the competition that the regional will bring."

“I want the fans to come out and enjoy it, be dressed in purple and be a part of something special,” said Carpenter.  “Being a part of getting a chance to win a regional on your home field is a great thing, and it’s probably the thing I’m most excited about.”

TCU will host fourth-seeded Wright State on May 29 at 7 p.m. CT at Lupton Stadium.  No. 2 Texas A&M and No. 3 Oregon State will tangle in the first game of the Fort Worth Regional at 2 p.m. CT.