June 9, 2023

Home Sweet Home

TCU can secure a spot in the College World Series at Lupton Stadium with two wins over Indiana State. 

TCU baseball coach Kirk Saarloos said that the Frogs' fortunes turned this season as the starting rotation came around. Photo by Gregg Ellman

June 9, 2023

Home Sweet Home

TCU can secure a spot in the College World Series at Lupton Stadium with two wins over Indiana State. 

The TCU baseball team is riding a nine-game winning streak and needs two victories to clinch a spot in the College World Series for the first time since 2017. Through an unusual set of circumstances, the Frogs will have the chance to punch their ticket at home.

TCU will play host to No. 13 Indiana State on June 9-11 at Lupton Stadium in the Fort Worth Super Regional. Ordinarily, the higher seed is the host team, but Indiana State is one of the two hosts sites for the Special Olympics of Indiana Summer Games.

Sycamores athletic director Sherard Clinkscales said that the town could not accommodate both events, so the baseball team was forced to hit the road. 

Frogs coach Kirk Saarloos said that the players were excited to learn that they would be playing at home for the chance be one of the eight teams in the College World Series from June 16-26 in Omaha, Nebraska.

First, though, TCU must keep its hot streak alive. Saarloos, in his first Super Regional as the head coach, broke down what the Frogs must to do keep their season going.

What has sparked this run to the Super Regionals?

I think it always comes down to pitching. I think our starting pitching gave our offense a chance, really. The middle part of the season we weren’t getting very good starting pitching. And Louis [Rodriguez] kind of stabilized it, [Kole] Klecker stabilized it and then [Sam] Stoutenborough stabilized it. It gave our offense a chance to be able to breathe and not play from behind all the time. From the offensive side, I thought Elijah Nunez playing well offensively and Kurtis Byrne taking over [at designated hitter] is what solidified it. It made it a really good nine-man lineup. And as soon as that happened, all of a sudden Brayden [Taylor], he just settled and he’s like, ‘OK, I don’t have to do everything.’ And, with anything, I think it just snowballed.

TCU reached the NCAA regionals in 2022, Kirk Saarloos’ first year as coach, and have reached the Super Regionals in his second year. Photo by Sharon Ellman

How do you keep it going? It’s kind of like knock on wood. You don’t want to talk about it or think about it. You just want to play good baseball. I said in the press conference after one of the games, it’s kind of a microcosm of life in terms of it’s not always going to be rainbows and unicorns. I think they are reaping the benefits and understanding that, man, it’s tough. College baseball is tough and so is life, and if you plug along and keep the faith and work hard and rally and unite as a group, you can accomplish anything. They’re seeing the fruits of their labor now.

Does it feel any different going to the Super Regionals as a head coach as opposed to when you were an assistant? It does. It’s always nerve-racking when you’re a couple outs away from from securing a Super Regional berth. But for me it was actually the calmest I probably was. I mean, it helped that we were up 12-4. It probably would have been a little bit different if it was 5-4, but when that last that was recorded, you look at … our whole staff. You look at all of them and it takes a little different meaning as a head coach. I’m just super proud of our team and our players in terms of their resiliency.

How did you learn you were hosting and what does that mean for the team? [Director of baseball operations] Meredith Montgomery came up to me right after we were shaking hands and singing the alma mater on the field Monday, and she whispered in my ear, ‘Hey, by the way, we are hosting.’ I thought she was joking, and then she told me what happened and I was just shocked. I think you saw some of the tweets in terms of raising some money for that cause. I think that’s phenomenal. I feel bad in terms of the players from Indiana State, who earned the right to be able to host. 

What advantage does playing at Lupton Stadium give the team?

It’s really unique because you’re right on top of everything; you’re right on top of the action. It’s going to be rockin’ and rollin’, which is going to be fun. When we told them that we’re going to host, you could see the excitement. There’s nothing better than playing postseason baseball at Lupton.

TCU won the Big 12 tournament in May and swept the Arkansas Regional to advance to the Super Regionals.
Photo by Mark Graham

What does Indiana State do well? They can really pitch. Everybody right now is either really good, hot or both, and I think they’re both. They have some guys in the order that can do some damage. I think they have a 3.83 ERA, so they can really pitch it. They have over a .987 fielding percentage, which is really, really good. So if you pitch and play defense, that always travels, kind of like in football where defense travels. It’s the same thing with college baseball. If you can pitch and defend, you’re going to be in every game. And they’ve won 45 games. You don’t luck into winning 45 games. They’re going to be a really, really good opponent. I’m excited to be able to compete against them.