TCU found itself with a brutal path through the Big 12 Tournament, despite taking the #1 seed and regular season championship - a 2nd round contest with RPI #9 Texas and an elimination game with D1Baseball’s #9 team Oklahoma State. While it speaks to the depth of the conference that the Frogs won outright, TCU needed to win one of those marquee contests to lock up a 1-seed and regional host honors for the NCAA Tournament. Instead TCU dropped two games against teams it was directly competing against for a 1-seed.
There was something about first inning pitching for TCU in this tournament – perhaps it’s the MLB ballpark, or the nerves, or the level of competition – but the Frog starters have not been able to escape an opening frame unscathed in the first two games. It appeared to be more of the same Friday as OK State got two on and moved them over with a wild pitch, setting up the super-powered bat of Griffin Doersching with a major opportunity. This brought a mound visit and a long chat about how to escape the danger. TCU’s Friday starter Riley Cornelio didn’t give power hitter Griffin Doersching the free pass to the open base, instead fooling him at the plate for a swinging K, followed by another swing-and-miss strikeout to eliminate the early threat. Spoiler alert: Doersching would have other opportunities
That turn of events rolled into the bottom of the inning as TCU got the bats rolling early for the first time this week. Brayden Taylor followed an Elijah Nunez single with a double to put two in scoring position with one out. A Kurtis Byrne fielder’s choice brought home Nunez and Bobby Goodloe got his impressive day started with an RBI single to score Taylor.
While the Frogs slowly added runs in each of the first three innings, OK State obtained its runs in bunches. Cornelio began the Top of the 3rd, but he would not finish the frame. After a surrendering a leadoff walk, OSU DH and new Stranger Things monster Griffin Doersching sent a baseball through space and time into the Upside Down – 450 feet to straightaway center. The horror didn’t end there, as Cornelio allowed two more baserunners before ceding the mound to Caleb Bolden. Bolden allowed a single to load the bases and then hit a batter to bring a run; a shot up the middle was well handled by Gray Rodgers to get an out, but it allowed another run across. In all, the half-inning featured 4 runs on 3 hits, 2 walks and a HBP. TCU bounced back in the bottom of the inning as the dynamic duo of Brayden & Bobby combined for the game tying run.
After a 6-up, 6-down 4th inning, the Cowboys brought the bats out again in the 5th. Caleb Bolden, who threw 2.0 innings on Wednesday, returned to the mound and loaded the bases with a couple of singles and a hit batter. There was a conference on the mound, but Bolden was left to get himself off the hook. Unfortunately, two more singles sent 4 runs to the plate and that was that. The 8 runs scored by the Cowboys over those two big innings proved to be enough, as neither team moved the scoreboard beyond that point. Outside of the Doersching home run, TCU pitchers didn’t give up any extra-base hits, but 11 singles and 8 free passes can do some damage. Conversely, the bottom of TCU’s order (spots 6-9) combined to hit 0-15 with 8 strikeouts; only Berkley reached base via walk, but he was pinch hit for after that one at bat.
The Frogs had to enter the fight today without Head Coach Kirk Saarloos, who received a suspension resulting from his ejection in Thursday’s game against Texas; Saarloos will also miss the first game of the Regional. Associate Coach Bill Mosiello stepped up in his stead, but said that it was business as usual for the Frogs, “We just do what we do...nothing really changes. We just miss him because we love having him around.”
TCU will now have to await its fate for NCAA Tournament Regional placement. The Frogs do not need to be concerned about whether they will make the Tournament, we can say with confidence that TCU still has more baseball to play, but the location is unknown. Coach Mosiello made his case for the Frogs to host a Regional, “We had to play in the great Big 12. We won it outright. So to me, how are you not the host?” We’ll find out together during the Selection Show on Memorial Day Monday at 11:00 AM on ESPN2, with Regionals set to begin Friday June 3.