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Getting To Omaha Starts with Winning the Big12

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NCAA Baseball: Big 12 Conference Baseball Championship Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

The College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska is the peak of college baseball. It’s the home for the 11-day championship tournament for the nation’s eight best teams. The path to Omaha is no easy feat, either: Teams play in a 4-team, double elimination Regional carried out over a weekend, followed by a best-of-three Super Regional. All-in-all, it’s a grueling stretch of two weeks with Omaha as the prize.

TCU most recently went to Omaha in 2017, the end of a 4-year stretch of TCU going to Omaha in each season. The levels of those teams are the levels that should be sought by this year’s team. In looking at that 4-year stretch, we can see what sort of results can lead to a return trip to Omaha. Now that conference play is in full-swing, we have a brief glimpse into what this team is truly capable of, but let’s take a deeper look.

The 2022 schedule for the Frogs has them at home for their series against West Virginia, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma (including the sweep the frogs already had over Kansas State on March 25-27). The road schedule is a daunting one, with trips to Texas, Oklahoma State, and Kansas (with the Frogs already having a series win at Baylor, winning 2 of the 3 games). Aside from looking just at the fact that Texas and Oklahoma State are both ranked in the top 10 in the country in most major polls, the Frogs’ record on the road is not so optimistic. While that may be obvious–that playing on the road will result in less wins than playing at home–these are series that need to be competitive and absolutely cannot result in the Frogs being swept, coming away with nothing to show for the road trips.

The Frogs’ record against their remaining conference road opponents during their Omaha years was a combined 10-6. This came against lesser competition, as well, with Texas performing below their usual standards, having just one winning conference record over that stretch. Oklahoma State over that stretch was 4-2 against the Frogs in Stillwater, and this year’s Cowboys team is arguably their strongest one in recent years. While Kansas is not the same on the diamond as they are on the hardwood, the Frogs went 4-2 in Lawrence during the Omaha years, and these games at Kansas could be crucial to determining the conference winner.

As for the home schedule, the sweep of Kansas State a week ago was a great follow-up to the series win in Waco. Oklahoma and West Virginia, historically, have been good series for the Frogs, having a combined 12-1 record over the Omaha years. Oklahoma has a much-improved team this season, thanks to some help in the transfer portal, going 15-8 to start the 2022 campaign. The Sooners also have a series win against Baylor under their belt in the early goings of the season, along with a non-conference win over Oklahoma State in Tulsa. Texas Tech has always been a fiercely-contested series for TCU, with the Red Raiders actually having a winning record in Fort Worth from 2014-2017, with TCU losing 4 of the 7 games played during that span at Lupton.

The other important thing to note is the recent conference winners and their conference records that made them the champions. Since 2014, three champions have had more than 17 wins, with TCU coming second in 2014 with 17 wins. Other than those instances, 17 seems to be the number of wins (out of 24 conference games) to shoot for to have a good chance at being at the top come the end of the season. With the games already played putting TCU at 5-1 to open conference play, that leaves 12 more wins out of 18 to hit that mark.

First up on the schedule is this weekend’s home series vs. West Virginia, who has struggled on the road this season. A sweep of the Mountaineers is now out of the question, but was the goal going into the series. Getting to 7-2 to start conference play before the tougher stretch comes would be crucial to the Frogs’ success. The next series is on the road to Austin, with the goal needing to be avoiding a sweep. Coming away with one win in Austin should be seen as a win and a positive step for this team, and would put them at 9-3 at that point. Anything more than one win in Austin is just bonus and insurance wins that will be huge at the end of the year. Then comes Texas Tech for a much anticipated series in Fort Worth. A series win would put TCU in the driver’s seat of the Big12, but that will be no easy task (especially after the Red Raiders’ impressive series win against Texas last weekend). Coming out of this series at 11-4 is ideal–10-5 being another likely scenario.

The tough stretch of games continues with a trip to Stillwater. The Cowboys currently boast an 11-3 home record and have a series win over perennial national contender Vanderbilt under their belts. The goal here is the same as in Austin: Do. Not. Get. Swept. Winning one game at a minimum keeps TCU in line for a 17 win record at the end of the year for the Big12. Getting swept, either in Stillwater or in Austin, would be detrimental to the task at hand, and needs to be avoided at all costs. The Frogs are at home against Oklahoma next for their conference slate, an opponent that has brought TCU plenty of success in Fort Worth. While a sweep would be a best-case-scenario here, the more likely series win, going 2-1 against the Sooners, does not hurt the Frogs. A sweep would be a bonus win, and is definitely attainable, but not necessarily required.

The final conference series is on the road to Kansas, where the conference championship will likely still be up for grabs. If you remember, a similar situation occurred in 2021, with TCU needing just a series win against Kansas State on the road to clinch a conference championship. Unfortunately things didn’t go as planned and the Frogs ended up splitting the conference championship with Texas rather than winning outright. Kansas, while on the road, should be a winnable series, with a sweep not out of the question.

As for the importance of all this, all we have to do is look to last year and that conference championship that could have been won outright, but wasn’t. Most major polls and predictions had TCU as a top-3 team before losing that series to Kansas State. Instead, TCU ended up with the number 6 national seed. Yes, any national seed in postseason play is a massive achievement, but moving down to number 6 gave the Frogs a harder path to Omaha. Texas, who TCU split the Big12 title with, got the number 2 seed and faced a rather weak path to Omaha (Texas went 3-0 in their Regional by a combined score of 33-5 and swept South Florida in the Super Regional, winning 4-3 and 12-4). This path is one which can reasonably be inferred to be what the Frogs would have enjoyed if they won the title over Texas.

Winning the Big12 conference, apart from adding to the trophy case at Lupton, lends TCU the best shot at success in the postseason and returning to Omaha, which is the ultimate goal for any college baseball team at the start of the year. The Big12 is always one of the top baseball conferences with multiple teams ranked nationally. Winning the conference would set the Frogs up for a long postseason run, hopefully ending June 27 with a dog pile on Charles Schwab Field in Omaha.