By Jake McKeever
FORT WORTH- TCU and Indiana State will meet in a Super Regional at Lupton Stadium, with a shot at Omaha on the line. Despite the games being in Fort Worth, Indiana State is the higher seed and will serve as the home team in Games 1 and 3, having relinquished the hosting opportunity due to prior university commitments at its Terre Haute campus.
Let's first take a step back and marvel at where Head Coach Kirk Saarloos has his Horned Frogs in just two short years. Following the departure of Jim Schlossnagle to Texas A&M, TCU was a program that could have headed in a couple directions. They could continue to be one of the top teams in Texas, or falter under new leadership.
College baseball is littered with programs that reach new heights with program-defining coaches before falling back to Earth. For instance, Rice and Cal State Fullerton, who at one point both sat atop our sport, with Head Coaches Wayne Graham and Augie Garrido, respectively. In succession of Schlossnagle, Saarloos won the Big 12 regular season title en route to an NCAA regional appearance in 2022. In 2023, the Horned Frogs won the Big 12 Tournament and are now hosting, albeit uniquely, a Super Regional.
TCU rolled through a rain-filled regional in Fayetteville, AR, defeating the Arizona Wildcats before knocking off the host Razorbacks twice. While the Hogs carried a national seed, it was instead the Horned Frogs who looked the part of a Top 8 team in both matchups. The TCU bats were hot all weekend, with the Horned Frog headliner being Baylor Transfer Tre Richardson. Richardson led the way with four home runs, after having hit just two in the regular season. Brayden Taylor also continued his hot streak, as he went 8-14 with 10 RBI’s on the weekend.
Freshman Kole Klecker out of Chandler, AZ, will take the bump for TCU on Friday. His start May 19 sparked the beginning of a 17-2 run for this TCU ball club. Saarloos will hope to see Klecker pitch into the middle innings to preserve the TCU bullpen. Luke Savage has also been a tremendous bullpen piece for the Big 12 champions since returning from injury.
Despite being a host, Indiana State was perceived as an underdog in the Terre Haute Regional that grouped Iowa, North Carolina and Wright State with the MVC Champions. The Sycamores got through the regional untouched, beating Wright State to open the tournament, before defeating Iowa twice. They came from behind in all three wins and ground out a tough win against Hawkeye flame thrower Brody Brecht. Sycamore arm Connor Fenlong will need to be sharp again, as he looks to navigate one of the toughest lineups that Indiana State has faced all season. Offensively, Mike Sears will need to continue his hot streak if the Sycamores look to return to Omaha for the second time ever.
Matt Jachec draws the Friday start for Indiana State, entering Fort Worth with a 7-3 record and 4.02 ERA. Jachec’s longest outing of the season came in a complete game shutout against Memphis, when the Sycamore ace struck out 10. The longer Jachec and the electric Sycamore defense can keep the bullpen fresh, the better chance the Sycamores have to continue their run in the NCAA Tournament.
Key Matchup: Indiana State Catcher Grant Mcgill vs the speed of TCU.
TCU: Elijah Nunez and Luke Savage
Indiana State: Grant Mcgill Elijah Nunez