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Big turnaround got TCU back to College World Series

 

STEPHEN HAWKINS, AP Sports Writer

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) – Boomer White remembers some uneasy feelings after the TCU Horned Frogs lost their first two Big 12 Conference series.

They were 15-12 at the end of March. Their season that started with such big expectations was instead looking like their Big 12 debut a year ago, when they finished only one game above .500 and missed an NCAA regional for the first time in coach Jim Schlossnagle's decade with the team.

"You don't want to admit it, but you saw flashes of last year coming with a team that we think that can be a very good contender to the College World Series or national champion," sophomore outfielder White said.

Then everything turned around, bolstered by a ninth-inning rally –and the Frogs (47-16) are where they always hoped and really expected to be.

TCU has won 32 of 36 games and is in the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, for the second time in five seasons. The Frogs play Big 12 foe Texas Tech (45-19) at 2 p.m. Sunday. The game will be televised on ESPN2.

The Frogs scored three times in the ninth of a series opener at home to beat West Virginia, and went on to a three-game sweep the first weekend in April. They then won two of three at Kansas and swept a series at Texas, another Big 12 team that made it to Omaha.

"That's really where we started bearing down – what is my job, what do I need to get done to give us the best chance to win," said junior first baseman Kevin Cron, a 14th-round draft pick whose brother is a rookie first baseman for the Los Angeles Angels. "From that point, everybody was executing exactly what was asked of them."

Such as No. 9 batter Kyle Bacak going to a knee for a perfectly executed suicide squeeze that provided the winning margin in their final at-bat against Pepperdine in the Game 3 super regional clincher.

TCU swept through the Big 12 tournament and a regional at home that included an 11-inning opener and a 22-inning marathon.

"Every series you just get more confident, and it's kind of showing right now," said White, who had game-winning RBIs in both extra-inning regional victories. "This is as good as it gets."

The TCU pitching staff leads the nation with a 2.19 ERA. There are four standout starters – led by Big 12 pitcher of the year Preston Morrison (9-4, 1.32 ERA) and left-hander Brandon Finnegan (9-3, 2.12), a first-round pick in last week’s Major League draft – and lights-out closer Riley Ferrell (15 saves, 0.68 ERA in 29 appearances).

Virginia and TCU, the only two of eight national seeds to make it to Omaha, are on the same side of the bracket. But the Frogs first face a familiar opponent.

TCU and Texas Tech have split four games this season. The Frogs won a non-conference game at a neutral site in April, but lost two of three at home to start Big 12 play.

"When we go up there and we get to face a familiar team, a pitcher that we're familiar with and a lineup that our pitchers have also faced, it calms us down a little bit, reminds us that it's just baseball," Cron said. "It's something we've been preaching leading up to that game. Hopefully we can just relax and play ball."

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