The Horned Frogs are Big 12 Champions.
After Saturday’s 10-7 victory over Oklahoma State, TCU Baseball isn’t sharing a title this time, but are outright owners of the conference crown.
“A trophy is coming for the co-championship and now we are bringing that one back to the 817! It’s another trophy to add to the trophy case,” Porter Brown said after being named Most Outstanding Player of the Big 12 Tournament.
Early on, it looked like TCU had every advantage, as the Frogs got off to a strong start behind first time starter River Ridings. A 1-2-3 first opened the game for the home team, as Ridings, whom Jim Schlossnagle anointed the starter to help his team “get off to a strong start” in the championship game, looked sharp early, striking out the first batter he faced and working around a pair of singles in the second to give the Frogs the chance to take an early lead.
They took advantage.
After leaving a pair stranded in the first, Porter Brown got the Frogs on the board in the second, ripping a seeing eye single right back up the middle to make it 2-0 TCU. But this Oklahoma State lineup is hard to hold down, and they made their big move in the third, sending eight batters to the plate and putting a five spot on the board. The inning started with an error, as Gray Rodgers booted a ground ball to put Golda on first. After back to back strikeouts, Schloss made the move to the pen, inserting Garrett Wright for Ridings. Christian Encarnacion Strand was hit by a pitch to put two on, and Jake Thompson walked to load the bases.
That’s when things got ugly.
Tommy Sacco charged a hard hit ground ball that he probably should have let come to him, leading to an error that scored two and tied that game. The real damage was done a batter later: after the inning should have been over, the next two batters reached safely, as Cade Cabbiness launched a three run home run to left center to put the Cowboys up 5-2.
Much as they had all week, the Frogs weren’t going to go down without a fight, and Phillip Sikes started the rally with this absolute moonshot down the left field line:
With the lead down to just one, Wright settled in and delivered a quiet fourth, striking out the side around a two out walk. That allowed TCU to tie things up in the bottom of the frame, with Luke Boyers scoring the fifth run of the game after an inning-opening single, a Zach Humphreys base hit, and Brayden Taylor’s sac fly.
Wright looked super comfortable again in the fifth, setting down the side in order on just 12 pitches. The Frogs answered by taking the lead in the bottom, loading the bases with two singles (Sikes and Boyers) and a Conner Shepherd walk, and emptying them on Porter Brown’s double to left center, making it 8-5 Frogs. It would be 10-5 after Zach Humphreys and Brayden Taylor walked, the former scoring on Hunter Wolfe’s sac fly and the latter on a wild pitch.
Both teams went in order in the sixth and Trenkle led off the seventh with a solo shot to make it 10-6. Oklahoma State got within three in the eighth; Luke Savage replaced Wright early in the seventh and allowed a lead-off double in the eighth ending his night; Cabbiness scored off of him with a two out single to make it 10-7.
In the top of the ninth, Haylen Green did Haylen Green things, striking out the final two batters he faced to clinch the victory and the championship. TCU won a share of the Big 12 regular season title, but the tournament trophy was all theirs. “It was awesome man,” Schlossnagle said. “Every season has its ups and downs; certainly the way we played the last three weeks was disappointing, it was embarrassing, it was certainly not who we are. For these guys to come here and do what they did, how hard they played? I felt like it represents the character of the team and how gritty they are to fight right back and get in it.”
Porter Brown was named Player of the Game for the second consecutive day and took home tournament Most Outstanding Player honors as well. “I got hot at the right time,” he said. “I contributed a lot, helped us win a ball game.” Zach Humphreys, Gray Rodgers, Hunter Wolfe, and Brown were named to the All-Tournament team. Those four join the ten players named to All-Conference teams, including Freshman of the Year Brayden Taylor, all after not a single TCU Baseball player was a preseason selection. “I dont know that there was a player on our team that was deserving of preseason recognition because no one had seen anybody play,” Schlossnagle said. “But it speaks to the development system of our program and is mainly a credit to the players. Look at a guy like Porter Brown — he wasn’t even playing at the beginning of the season. All of a sudden Boyers has a hamstring, Nunez struggled the second half of the season, now he’s the MVP of the conference tourney.”
Having earlier clinched Regional hosting honors, TCU Baseball likely also secured a National Seed with their performance in Oklahoma City over the last week. Winning the tournament outright could elevate them back to the top five and make their road to Omaha a little less perilous. Jim Schlossnagle was happy to see him celebrate, but quick to keep things in perspective. “It was great night, a great week. It’s not our ultimate goal, but certainly exciting and I love seeing the team happy and celebrating.”
Building off of the performances of Drew Hill, River Ridings, Garrett Wright, Marcelo Perez, and others has to give the Frogs a ton of confidence going into a hosting opportunity in the Regional round. And playing on their home field, in front of a capacity crowd? It’s all you can ask for. “I’m super excited. We saw glimpses of that [a full house] over the Texas weekend — a packed Lupton Stadium on a June night in the NCAA Tournament with the aluminum stands rocking? Those are the things I dreamed of before I came here.” Porter Brown agreed, adding “it hasn’t been the same with quarantine, capacity restriction, losing the season last year. We are all really excited to play in front of a full crowd.”
If there was any doubt that the Horned Frogs are worthy of a Top Eight seed, Schloss was quick to shut them down. “No question. I mean, come on. Co-champions of the Big 12 regular season and now Big 12 Tournament champions. The reports of our demise are highly exaggerated — the reports of the Frogs’ demise highly exaggerated.”
He ended the press conference with this: “I challenge every TCU fan to get out there [next weekend].”
See you at Lupton, Frog fans.