TCU baseball’s streak of four consecutive College World Series appearances came to an end on Monday when it was revealed the Horned Frogs had missed out on the 2018 NCAA Baseball Tournament.
The Horned Frogs, despite all the injuries and other hurdles they endured this spring, came achingly close to an improbable postseason berth after advancing to the Big 12 Baseball Tournament title game on Sunday. They were unable to close the deal twice in an extra-innings loss to Baylor.
The end of the impressive run is a tough pill to swallow for TCU players and fans alike, given how close the Horned Frogs were to punching their ticket to the postseason.
That doesn’t mean, however, that TCU’s recent postseason endeavors shouldn’t be celebrated.
From Lupton Stadium to TD Ameritrade Park, the Horned Frogs had more than their fair share of magical postseason moments as they embarked on a journey that saw them advance to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., four times from 2014 to 2017. Whether it came down to ninth-inning heroics or marathon extra-innings contests, TCU fans found themselves in store for a treat more often than not.
Here are TCU’s five best postseason contests from the four-season run along the “Toad to Omaha.”
5. 2017 Super Regional: TCU 3, Missouri State 2
“Lupton Magic” was nothing new by this point, but TCU’s win over Missouri State during the 2017 NCAA Fort Worth Super Regional was certainly one of its more memorable appearances.
Seeking to advance to the College World Series for the fourth straight year, the Horned Frogs found themselves once again hosting a Super Regional at Lupton Stadium after traveling to College Station, Texas, for the same round one year earlier. But despite the home-field advantage, the Horned Frogs found themselves in danger of being in a do-or-die scenario when they trailed Missouri State 2-1 entering the bottom of the eighth inning.
By that point, we all should have known better; TCU fans had no reason to worry. Catcher Evan Skoug, representing the go-ahead run with a runner on during his plate appearance that inning, launched a 2-run shot over the right-field wall for the go-ahead home run — sending the nearly 5,200 fans on hand into pandemonium.
— NCAA Baseball (@NCAACWS) June 11, 2017
TCU pitcher Durbin Feltman went on to record a program-record 17th save of the year in the ninth, and that set the Horned Frogs up to punch yet another ticket to Omaha the next day with a dominant 8-1 victory.
4. 2014 Regional: TCU 3, Sam Houston State 2 (22 innings)
When a game starts in May and ends in June, it’s worthy of being among the all-time greats.
TCU’s regional contest against Sam Houston State on May 31, 2014, began as an ordinary NCAA baseball playoff game at Lupton Stadium. Six hours and 54 minutes later, June 1 had arrived and TCU had recorded a 3-2 victory in what is tied for the third-longest game in NCAA Division I baseball history.
After more than several missed scoring chances by both teams, it was Boomer White who played the role of hero with a go-ahead single in the top of the 22nd (!) inning. The Horned Frogs were the away team in the contest, so it wasn’t a walk-off, but they recorded the save in bottom of the inning to finish the night — umm, morning — with a win and a total of 7 pitchers used on the mound. White transferred to Texas A&M after the season ended, but TCU fans will remember him for putting their team on the winning end of a game for the ages.
3. 2016 College World Series: TCU 5, Texas Tech 3
If any single game will define Luken Baker’s career on the baseball diamond at TCU, this is the one.
It came in 2016, which was the third straight year in which TCU advanced to the College World Series, and the Horned Frogs had plenty of company in Omaha; Big 12 foes Oklahoma State and Texas Tech joined them there. No time was wasted when it came to having a Big 12 showdown at TD Ameritrade Park that June as the Horned Frogs took on the Red Raiders in Game 1.
TCU carried a 2-1 lead in the fifth inning, thanks to a home run from Omaha-area native Ryan Merrill, but Texas Tech responded with 2 runs and ultimately entered the top of the ninth inning with a 3-2 lead. But bullpen trouble for the Red Raiders put two runners on for the Horned Frogs with just one out recorded, bringing up Baker.
The 6-foot-4 freshman had made a name for himself as one of the Big 12’s top sluggers all season long, and he lived up to that hype in the clutch as he connected for a towering 3-run blast into the left-field bleachers to put TCU up 5-3, stunning the crowd on hand.
Durbin Feltman entered in the bottom of the ninth inning to successfully record the save and send the Horned Frogs into the winners bracket, giving TCU a phenomenal start to another memorable week at the College World Series. The Horned Frogs also improved to 10-0 at the time in games in which Baker homered.
2. 2015 Regional: TCU 9, N.C. State 8 (10 innings)
Math says TCU shouldn’t have won this game. Lupton Magic had other plans.
Coming off their first College World Series appearance in four years in the 2014 season, the Horned Frogs had another dominant campaign in 2015 and began the postseason by hosting a regional at Lupton Stadium. TCU won its opening contest, but the Horned Frogs lost a heartbreaker in Game 2 when North Carolina went ahead on a 2-run home run when they were down to their last out in the ninth inning. That set up a do-or-die Game 3.
It appeared TCU would suffer a painful ending to its season when N.C. State had an 8-1 in the eighth inning. But a pitching meltdown for the Wolfpack in the bottom of the inning provided for a remarkable feat: 6 unearned runs scored for TCU and an 8-7 contest entering the ninth inning. Fittingly, TCU would tie the game at 8-all in the ninth under the most unusual circumstances: a run on a passed-ball strikeout after a balk allowed Derek Odell to advance to third.
The game went into extra innings, and it didn’t take long for Elliot Barzilli to hit a walk-off single in the bottom of the 10th inning to send the Horned Frogs to the Super Regionals just hours after it appeared all hope was lost.
1. 2015 Super Regional: TCU 5, Texas A&M 4 (16 innings)
Two highly touted college baseball teams in Texas and one game for a spot in the College World Series. That’s what it came down to on that fateful night in June 2015 as TCU and Texas A&M battled it out in front of a capacity crowd at Lupton Stadium in Fort Worth.
TCU appeared to have a second-consecutive trip to Omaha locked up entering the bottom of the ninth inning. The Horned Frogs owned a 4-2 lead, but the bullpen wasn’t able to record the save when it counted the most as the Aggies rallied for 2 runs to tie the game and send it to extra innings. A stalemate dragged into the pre-dawn hours of Tuesday morning. It wasn’t until the 16th inning, after both teams had threatened but failed to score on several occasions, that a runner finally managed to cross home plate.
TCU had two runners on base — Garrett Crain at second and Cody Jones on first — with 2 outs when catcher Evan Skoug hit a sharp ground ball to third base. Texas A&M third baseman Ronnie Gideon got a glove on it, but a mishandled play prevented him from making the routine throw to first for the third out. With Crain rounding third upon the error, Gideon attempted to throw Crain out at the plate, but the ball sailed wide of catcher Michael Barash. Crain slid home safely to cap off a wild, walk-off win and punch the Horned Frogs’ ticket to Omaha for a second consecutive year. The win also marked the first of three times TCU eliminated Texas A&M in the postseason in as many years.