Baseball

NC State baseball: Host TCU stumbles into NCAA tournament

Forget last week’s forgettable showing in the Big 12 tournament.

TCU’s season-long body of work was enough.

The Horned Frogs were awarded one of the top eight seeds in the NCAA baseball tournament despite going 0-2 last week in Tulsa, Okla., giving them a chance to play at home in each round before the College World Series.

“The schedule we played — at ASU, the Dodger Stadium tournament, Rice, winning the Big 12 by three games; I don’t care whether people think it’s up or down, if you win that kind of conference by three games, then in my eyes, you’re deserving of it,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said.

The regular-season Big 12 champion Horned Frogs will meet Sacred Heart at 7 p.m. Friday in the opening day of the Fort Worth Regional at Lupton Stadium. N.C. State will face Stony Brook at 2:30. The format is double elimination, and the winner advances to the best of three Super Regionals.

If the Horned Frogs make it out of the regional, they will host the Super Regional by virtue of being a top-eight seed.

“Yeah, luckily it didn’t hurt us,” TCU shortstop Keaton Jones said of the losses to Baylor and Texas Tech at the Big 12 tournament, which ended a streak of 11 consecutive conference wins. “Honestly, I thought it would more. I think we would have been a little higher in the seeding if we had done well. But luckily, our season was good for us, and we played really well.”

Schlossnagle wants his team to return to playing the type of baseball that resulted in a 17-1 run to close the regular season.

“We know that only two of the eight national seeds made it to Omaha last year,” he said. “All that matters is how we play Friday. That’s all that matters. It’s our job to justify what the committee awarded us. We just need to go play good baseball.”

TCU flipped the script quickly last year. They were three outs from a 2-5 start to the conference race but rallied for a 4-3 victory. It was the start of a 27-3 finish to the regular season that launched TCU to a 3-0 regional tournament, a 2-1 Super Regional series victory and a berth in the College World Series.

It’s clear the message Schlossnagle is trying to get across.

“We’re either going to make this a really, really good story, or we’re going to peter out at the end,” Schlossnagle said. “My money’s on the fact that this is just going to be part of our season, part of a longer season. I have no doubt about that.”

TCU went 27-2 at Lupton Stadium this year and is 10-2 all-time in regional tournaments there.

Last season, the Horned Frogs swept their regional and won a Super Regional against Pepperdine at home.

“We’re definitely very comfortable there,” starting pitcher Preston Morrison said. “Our hitters know how to hit there. Our pitchers know how to pitch there. For us, it’s an added level of comfort. It’ll be a lot of fun.”

Fort Worth Regional

No. 1 TCU: Second consecutive national seed, a first in school history. … Won the Big 12 regular-season championship for the first time. … 17-3 in past 20 games.

No. 2 N.C. State: Wolfpack won 10 of 12 to close the regular season, then won three straight to reach the ACC tournament championship game.

No. 3 Stony Brook: Located in Stony Brook, N.Y. … Won the America East Conference regular season and tournament. … Rallied from a 7-0 first-inning deficit in the championship game. … 7-10 all-time in regional games.

No. 4 Sacred Heart: Located in Fairfield, Conn. ... Won the Northeast Conference tournament championship for the fourth time, defeating top seed Bryant. ... 0-6 all-time in regional games.

Schedule

Friday

Game 1: Stony Brook (34-14-1) vs. N.C. State (34-21), 2:30 p.m.

Game 2: TCU (45-11) vs. Sacred Heart (23-30-1), 7 p.m.

Saturday

Game 3: Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser (loser eliminated)

Game 4: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner

Sunday

Game 5: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 loser (loser eliminated)

Game 6: Game 4 winner vs. Game 5 winner

Monday

Game 7: Game 4 winner vs. Game 5 winner, if necessary

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