I’ll admit it, I was scared to death when Chris Del Conte left his purple suits for that ugly orange color on his way to University Texas, leaving the friendly confines of Fort Worth for the bright lights of Austin.
I didn’t know much about his heir apparent, but I knew enough about CDC. We have now all heard the story of his behind the scenes work to secure the Horned Frogs a seat at the table when A&M, Missouri, Colorado, and Nebraska defected the Big 12 for supposed greener pastures elsewhere, creating a rare Power Five opening for ‘little ol’ TCU’. His ability to hold on to Gary Patterson and Jim Schlossnagle despite annual overtures from big-pocketed schools, his hiring of Jamie Dixon, and his fundraising was legendary - he had the rebuilt stadium funded before ground was broken.
So when he dipped out in December of 2017, it’s not surprising that many TCU fans were concerned that he would take the magic with him.
Little did we know, that just short of 18 months later, there was an argument to be made that he might have left us in even better hands.
Not many knew the name Jeremiah Donati prior to his being named TCU Athletic Director; the 2001 graduate of Puget Sound University, who holds a law degree from Whittier and spent time as an agent, came to TCU in 2011, where he was instrumental in funding several of the Frogs’ capital campaigns. He quickly proved himself a capable leader as he moved up the ladder in TCU Athletics, being promoted to Associate Athletics Director in 2013 and Deputy AD in 2016. Though he had been a quick riser, he had proven himself capable every step of the way, and was the natural choice to take over for CDC when he stepped away.
Donati was thrown to the fire almost immediately, fending off a furious pursuit of Jim Schlossnagle by Mississippi State a year ago, and doing the same when UCLA came for Jamie Dixon.
But his most important move may have been last week’s, when he took a stand against Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and his mentor CDC, in voting yes on a proposal that would allow universities to hire a third assistant for their baseball and softball programs. Unfortunately, neither the Big 12 or Big Ten passed the resolution - one which would have allowed, not mandated, for schools to hire a third assistant in baseball and softball, mostly hiding behind weak excuses and platitudes in order to cheapen out despite having some of the biggest budgets in college athletics. For Donati, who voted yes despite knowing the bigger schools were voting no, and Schlossnagle, who was a vocal proponent, the resolution failing has to be disappointing. But TCU fans, coaches, and players should be thankful that their AD has their back.
Both Charles King and Brandon Williamson had quality starts over the weekend, with King pitching a complete game for a win Friday and Williamson going 6.2 innings and allowing just one hit - though he was eventually responsible for three runs in what turned into a gut-wrenching loss. The emergence of King as a legit #2 is huge for TCU - assuming they can get back in the postseason picture, having King lockdown a weekend role puts them in a position to succeed. Williamson was exceptional Saturday... until...
The bullpen. YIKES.
TCU didn’t really need the pen much over the weekend, using just reliever Dawson Barr in Thursday night’s loss and getting a complete game out of King Friday.
Then Saturday hit.
TCU used four relievers to get one out in the seventh, as Williamson got pulled with two down and two runners on for Jake Eissler. Eissler allowed a single to the first batter he faced to load the bases, hit the second, and allowed another base hit to the third. That forced Schloss to change arms again, turning to Haylen Green, who gave up back to back base hits before handing the ball to Marcelo Perez. He got the final out of the frame, but would allow five runs (four earned) on five hits and two walks before being pulled with two down in the eighth. Augie Mihlbauer allowed the tying run and Cal Coughlin the winning. It was a mess of a day by a group of relievers that have been on Schloss’ bad side most of the season.
The series loss in Manhattan, to what was the league’s eighth place team, drops the Frogs from what could have been third place in the conference to sixth. It also puts TCU’s postseason hopes in doubt - after missing out on the playoffs a season ago, TCU Baseball finds themselves perilously on the edge of doing so again:
Speaking of suddenly in some trouble, Kansas State wins back-to-back series over Texas and TCU, winning today in a walk-off 11-10. #Frogs’ postseason case will look questionable entering the final few weeks of the regular season. https://t.co/QWoZMb8PxL— Kendall Rogers (@KendallRogers) April 21, 2019
The Frogs host Baylor this weekend, travel to red-hot West Virginia the next, and finish with Kansas at home and Texas Tech on the road. Nothing is guaranteed down the stretch for a TCU team still trying to find its identity. They have, in the words of their coach, a championship-caliber offense, one of the country’s best pitchers in Nick Lodolo, and capable starters in King and Williamson. If the bullpen can be just competent, a long run isn’t out of the question.