June 16, 2023

‘We needed to change something’

TCU paved its path to the College World Series with a remarkable late-season turnaround. 

The TCU baseball team celebrated a berth to the College World Series on June 10 after beating Indiana State. Photo by Michael Clements

June 16, 2023

‘We needed to change something’

TCU paved its path to the College World Series with a remarkable late-season turnaround. 

A baseball season is the longest in college sports.

All teams will play more than 50 games. The best teams will play more than 60. 

Pitfalls can arise in every contest, and all teams will get trapped by them — some longer than others. 

But a season is so long that teams can often recover. TCU, barely above .500 on April 30, recovered nicely. 

The Frogs went 19-2 beginning May 1 and raced through the postseason with nine consecutive wins to reach the College World Series.  

TCU (44-22) made it to Omaha, Nebraska, for the sixth time in program history and for the first time since the 2017 team was one of the last four teams playing.  

Some didn’t expect the Frogs to be one of the 64 teams in the NCAA Tournament before their strong finish. Players pointed to a few reasons for the turnaround, but one trumped all others. 

“I just think at that point in the season a lot of us got tired of playing the way that we were,” third baseman Brayden Taylor said. “We realized that we needed to change something, so what that really was was just go out there and start having more fun, playing with our backs against the wall.”  

Big home run 

Taylor said that the low point of the season might have come April 23, when TCU lost 17-7 at West Virginia as the Mountaineers completed a three-game sweep. 

The game marked the Frogs’ fourth straight loss after dropping a mid-week game to Lamar and their sixth loss in seven games. 

It was a long flight home. 

“That was definitely a pretty low point,” Taylor said. “We had a few different low points, but West Virginia sticks out. At that point, a lot of us were like, ‘Hey, we need to figure something out because that’s not how TCU baseball is supposed to be played.’” 

Things weren’t looking much better two nights later at home against Dallas Baptist, which held a 5-3 lead in the eighth inning. The bases were loaded were freshman catcher Karson Bowen, and he connected for a grand slam that flipped the game and, head coach Kirk Saarloos said, the season. 

TCU lost its next to games to Texas to close out the month, but the Frogs played better and seemed to be in the right place mentally thanks to the Bowen grand slam. 

“We were losing at that point, and he put us up, and you could just see an exhale from our whole dugout,” Saarloos said. “And that’s kind of what triggered it. They really haven’t looked back since.” 

“A lot of us were like, ‘Hey, we need to figure something out because that’s not how TCU baseball is supposed to be played.’”
TCU third baseman Brayden Taylor on the sweep at West Virginia

The postseason run 

TCU salvaged the No. 4 seed for the Big 12 tournament thanks to a home-run robbing catch by center fielder Elijah Nunez to seal a victory at Kansas State to close out the regular season.

The Frogs beat the Wildcats in the first game of the tournament 16-3 to spark their current nine-game winning streak. They topped Oklahoma State to win the conference tournament for the fourth time and secured the No. 2 seed at the Fayetteville Regional to begin the NCAA Tournament. 

 TCU played even better in Arkansas, opening with a 12-4 victory over Arizona and then routing No. 3 national seed Arkansas 20-5. In the game, second baseman Tre Richardson hit three home runs, including grand slams in back-to-back innings, and tied the NCAA record with 11 RBIs. 

“Nobody ever wakes up in the morning and says, ‘You know, I’m going to hit three home runs,’ and it actually happens,” he said. “I kept doing the same thing that I have been doing. I’m fortunate enough to have teammates that got on before me because my mindset was a lot easier going up bases loaded both at-bats and knowing there was nowhere that [Arkansas pitchers] were going to put me.” 

TCU finished off the regional series the next day, again beating Arkansas, to advance to the Super Regionals, which through a turn of good fortune they would play at Lupton Stadium rather than at Indiana State. 

Indiana State, ranked 13th nationally, was unable to be a host site because of scheduling conflict with the Special Olympics of Indiana on campus. The Frogs beat the Sycamores 4-1 and 6-4 on June 8 and June 9 before some 17,000 fans to clinch the trip all teams dream of making.

“At our first team meeting we talked about going,” Saarloos said. “And here we are.”

TCU lost only twice from May 1 through the Super Regional win June 10. Photo by Michael Clements


 The players said they remain focused on the task at hand and would not get lost in just being excited to have reached being one of the last eight teams still playing. 

 None of the players on the roster has played this deep into the season. 

 “At the end of the day we’re going out there to play TCU baseball,” Richardson said. “We’re not going out there to … tighten up because we’re playing our first game in the College World Series. That’s the mind-set as a team.” 

 A campus send-off that included the Fort Worth fire department sent the Frogs on their way to Omaha after a late-season turnaround fueled their postseason run, and they set out to return with a national championship.

“There’s a lot of people outside of our locker room that probably didn’t think we would be here a month or two ago, but … the guys did the work and we’re here because of them,” Saarloos said. “I couldn’t be more proud in terms of our program being back in Omaha. Every team starts the year with that goal in mind, and we’re one of eight.”