OMAHA, Neb. -- Perseverance might be the best word to describe TCU second baseman Garrett Crain.
Coming out of Santa Fe High School in Edmond, Oklahoma, Crain was a lightly recruited prospect with no Division I offers. He then decided to attend Rose State (Oklahoma) Junior College to improve his game and hopefully get noticed by a major program.
"Some people mature physically faster than others," Crain said. "I wasn't the biggest kid or the fastest but continuing to work and doing what you can to get better will eventually pay off, and I think it has."After hitting .386 as a freshman and .368 as a sophomore, Crain caught the eye of TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle and former assistant Tony Vitello. It was then a no-brainer for Crain to become a Horned Frog.
"The atmosphere at TCU baseball games and the tradition of the program was real attractive to me," Crain said. "I was very excited to come here, and it's paid off. It's a pretty awesome place."
After making three starts at third base and four at first, Crain has found at home at second base for the Horned Frogs. He heads into Sunday's opening game of the College World Series with a team-high .335 average. He's also committed just two errors in 231 chances for a .991 fielding percentage. Along the way, he was named All-Big 12 honorable mention.
In addition to being instrumental in TCU becoming one of just 10 schools to reach the College World Series twice in the past five seasons, Crain also played a major role in the Horned Frog capturing TCU's first Big 12 team title at the Phillips 66 Big 12 championship. Making it even more special for Crain was that it came in essentially his backyard. His hometown of Mustang, Oklahoma, is just a 20-minute drive from the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City.
"It was really nice to have family and friends there to see us win and do well," he said. "I had played at Bricktown once before in high school. It was nice to go back home and spend some time there."
Any nerves for Crain playing in his home area were not evident. He batted .385 (5-for-13) with five runs scored and three RBI to earn selection on the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship All-Tournament Team. He was then selected the following week to the Fort Worth All-Regional Team.
There's no doubt Crain's emergence as the everyday second baseman was key in the Horned Frogs winning 32 of their past 36 games heading into Omaha.
"It's pretty awesome," Crain said. "We didn't start off too hot, but the way we have things going and getting to where we're at now has really made all our hard work and everything we went through in the fall pay off.
"Winning the Big 12 and getting to Omaha these last few weeks is really amazing, but we still have some work to do while we're here."
While Dylan Fitzgerald's game-tying double and Kyle Bacak's suicide squeeze bunt for the go-ahead run garnered much of the headlines in TCU's 6-5 win against Pepperdine in the deciding game of the Super Regional, it was Crain's leadoff single against Waves' relief ace Eric Karch that ignited the Horned Frogs' dramatic two-run ninth inning rally.
"If we hadn't won, it wouldn't have meant much but we ended up scoring, so it's pretty awesome," Crain said. "All I was trying to do was get on base, and it ended up happening. Scoring the tying run was really big for us. It was amazing, especially with the atmosphere and hearing how loud it was in the stadium."
For Crain, and his teammates, the Lupton Stadium crowd played a big role in helping push the Horned Frogs to Omaha.
"It's awesome with how into the games they are and how excited they get when someone makes a good play or gets a big hit," he said. "It's just really nice having them there and loud, always around and having them back us up."
An applied geoscience major, Crain has become as skilled in time management as he is in turning a double play.
"It's definitely tough with all the different classes we have with the 15-hour semesters and then baseball on top of it," he said. "You have to go here, here and here, and then finally maybe get a 20-to-30 minute break and then you have to do homework and back up to the field. It's really tough, but you'll find a way to get it done."
Choosing the applied geoscience major was a natural for Crain as he looks to follow in his father's footsteps.
"It can go into a couple of different things but my main focus will be oil and gas, so energy and technology management," he said. "I've always been interested in it. It's the field my dad is in. He's a land man, so I kind of grew up around it and look forward to pursuing it some day."
It's that academic side of Crain and the university that have him proud to be at TCU, even if it wasn't for baseball.
"It's really a great school and one of the reasons that brought me here," he said. "The campus is extremely nice and clean, and the teachers really work with you on homework, tests and getting you to where you need to be academically.
"It's not too big of a school, but it's not small also. It's not like a school that has 30, 40 or 50,000 students. It's just really nice and comfortable."
That family atmosphere is also prevalent in the baseball program for Crain.
"It's amazing," he said. "This is one of the closest teams, if not closest, I've ever been on. We spend all of our time together and joke around and mess with each other. It's just really special being a part of a team like this."
Also special is how Crain has become a starting second baseman on a College World Series team, just three years after no Division I program deemed him worthy of a look.