OMAHA, Neb. -- TCU certainly had a flair for the dramatic in this year’s NCAA tournament, but the run came to an end on Friday at the hands of the defending champs.
Their time in Omaha may be done, but TCU is exiting with its collective head held high.
“There are no bad days in Omaha,” head coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “Some are just better than others. So this one is certainly the worst one but it's still not a bad day.”
The Horned Frogs had become synonymous with drama and excitement throughout the tournament. It was in the regional round that they needed two wins against NC State, one requiring a comeback from an 8-1 deficit in the eighth inning.
Then there were the Super Regionals, where TCU and Texas A&M went the full three games and then some. With seven of eight spots in Omaha secured, the Horned Frogs and Aggies went back and forth deep into the night, with Evan Skoug finally ending the drama in the 16th inning by knocking in Garrett Crain for a 5-4 TCU win.
TCU arrived in Omaha as one of four remaining national seeds, and was matched up with the highest one remaining, No. 2 LSU. Preston Morrison tossed a gem and the Frogs put up 10 runs on the Tigers, putting them into a matchup with defending champion Vanderbilt. Alex Young took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, but Zander Wiel’s home run broke it up and proved to be the difference in a 1-0 game.
Another big win against LSU brought up a second game versus Vanderbilt, but Walker Buehler was able to slow down TCU’s train. He went 6.2 innings, surrendering four hits and one run while striking out eight.
Keaton Jones refuted the idea that all of the drama caught up to them in the end.
“Not really,” Jones said. “I mean, I don't know, we just didn't play our brand of baseball. [Buehler] pitched a really good game. And we didn't find ways to score.”
After the game, Schlossnagle expressed appreciation for the TCU senior class. With MLB draft eligibility after junior year, it’s rare in college baseball for a team for a team to have so many talented seniors. The Horned Frogs managed to keep much of that class together for four years.
There’s Morrison, whom Schlossnagle called a “first-ballot TCU Hall of Famer” and finishes his TCU career with 37 wins. There’s center fielder Cody Jones, first baseman Jeremie Fagnan, third baseman Derek Odell, shortstop Keaton Jones and second baseman Garrett Crain, all mainstays in the lineup. There are pitchers Travis Evans and Trey Teakell, a fifth-year senior reliever who retired all 13 batters he faced in the second LSU win.
A huge Thank You goes out to these eight me who helped lead us to two straight CWS appearances. pic.twitter.com/f30OzCnrmM— TCU Baseball (@TCU_Baseball) June 20, 2015
The class was part of three Super Regional teams and made two trips to the College World Series.
“It's a really special group,” Schlossnagle said, “and a group that has really helped us establish us as a legitimate program, an Omaha program, one you're not going to be here every year but you're going to be fighting for that opportunity every year. That wasn't the case just five years ago. So we're very appreciative to those guys.”
Morrison, who was drafted in the eighth round by the Chicago Cubs, started his career without a guaranteed roster spot. He’s leaving as arguably the best pitcher in program history.
“It's been amazing,” Morrison said, “four, five years ago I was some unrecruited guy from a small town in North Carolina. And then just to be a part of this program, a part of this school, is just about anything a guy could ask for. And then just the relationships I have with all my teammates, especially these seniors. It's a true blessing, and I've never taken it for granted. It's been the best decision of my life to come here. I'm just so happy that it all happened.”