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Monday Morning Manager: The End of an Era

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TCU’s magical four year Omaha run ended by missing the postseason completely.

It looked like this run scored by Zach Humphreys in the top of the 11th would win the Frogs a Big 12 title, but... it wasn’t meant to be.
Melissa Triebwasser

We have seen the last of AJ Balta, Connor Wanhanen, and Michael Landestoy in a TCU uniform.

We have likely seen the last of Durbin Feltman, Jared Janczak, and Luken Baker in a TCU uniform.

We have possibly seen the last of Sean Wymer in a TCU uniform.

Now we wait to see if Jim Schlossnagle joins that list.

It appears that this Monday brings about the end of an era for TCU Baseball; as they were unceremoniously left out of the NCAA Tournament field, despite have a better resume than at least two tournament teams:

signaling the end of their Omaha run, as not only would the Frogs fail to reach the College World Series for a fifth straight season, they were denied even an opportunity.

The Frogs run to the Big 12 Tournament game was exciting and inspiring, but the final game - and really just the final few innings - was indicative of how their season has gone all year. After falling behind 3-0 in the first, TCU fought and clawed their way back into the ballgame - primarily on the strength of a bullpen that has bailed them out time and time again. Oddly enough, they scored their first four runs all on home runs, part of a late-season power surge that kept their postseason hopes alive down the stretch.

It appeared that the Frogs would hold on to win after AJ Balta launched a long ball to dead center to give TCU a 4-3 lead in the top of the eighth. Jim Schlossnagle played for the win at that point - and why would you not with the best closer in the country chomping at the bit in your ‘pen - bringing in three different pitchers to face three different batters leading up to the ninth. Feltman came in and got two easy outs, but then the sun betrayed the Frogs, as both Johnny Rizer and AJ Balta dropped routine fly balls as they stared up into the ball of fire that had been baking players and fans all afternoon. Both players will tell you that those are catches they HAVE to make in that situation, but Balta never even saw the ball to right field. Twice, TCU was a strike away from a win, and twice, the baseball gods kicked them in the groin.

That’s the way baseball go.

The Frogs never gave up, scoring on a Conner Shepherd single in the top of the eleventh in a close play at the plate after staying alive on an AJ Balta laser to cut down the potential winning run a half inning earlier. But Schloss had to reach too far into the pen, as his once brilliant over-managing eventually became the death of his team’s season. Neither Trey Morris or Austin Boyles could consistently throw strikes, and after Boyles walked in the tying run in the bottom of the eleventh, the ensuing game-winning single seemed inevitable. Even if the Bears hadn’t won it there, the Frogs were down to just James Notary and Dion Henderson in the pen, and it was questionable how much longer they could stay in the game.

Now we are faced with the likelihood of a new coach, a host of new faces (again), and the restart of a program that has been so consistently good over the last 15 years, it’s hard to imagine what’s next. I guess we will have to wait and see.

The Good:

AJ Balta came within one RBI of tying the tournament record in an impressive performance over the course of four games in OKC. Balta went 6-14 with 14 RBIs, scored five runs, and made one unbelievable throw. He was Skoug-esque, Baker-esque, on the biggest stage he will play on with TCU, and it’s a damn shame his career ended Sunday afternoon, just as he was starting to reach his full potential.

The Bad:

The Frogs went 0-4 against Baylor Baseball in 2018. That sucks. Prior to 2018, the Frogs were 13-6 against the Bears since joining the Big 12.

The Ugly:

Jim Schlossnagle, the winningest coach in program history, is all but out the door. He won’t leave because of money, the Frogs can offer plenty of that. But recruiting at a private university can be a challenge in a non-revenue sport, where you only have 11.7 scholarships to offer to a roster comprised of 35 players, meaning that each player is offered, on average, about $15,000 of a tuition that costs nearly $45,000. Now, of course it doesn’t work out that way, but more often than not, players are asked to pick up a significant chunk of the cost of attending TCU. It’s about half that at Mississippi State for out of state recruits, and a fifth of what in-state players need to pay. That, and an upcoming $52 million dollar stadium renovation, might be enough to lure the Frogs’ long time manager to StarkVegas.

But, man... Mississippi? I don’t get it.

One man does not a program make, and though losing Schlossnagle would be a huge blow to what the Frogs have built, you would imagine Jeremiah Donati will do whatever it takes to keep Kirk Saarloss in Fort Worth. Young, energetic, and an ace recruiter, the former MLB pitcher could certainly pick up for Schloss left off and keep things humming. Though TCU Baseball could lose a lot, they return a ton of pitching in 2019, have several young position players that have the talent to be great, and another outstanding recruiting class expected on campus this summer, even if they lose 2-3 to the draft as expected.

The future is bright in Funky Town, even if things look dark right now.