The TCU Horned Frogs practiced at Creighton on Monday, a 1-0 team getting ready to face another 1-0 team at the College World Series.
That is nothing new.
In three appearances at the College World Series, the Frogs have won their opening game every time.
In 2010, they opened with an 8-1 victory against Florida State. Last year, it was a 3-2 victory against Texas Tech. This year, it was a 10-3 victory against LSU.
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But in the double-bracket/double-elimination format of the College World Series, the first victory is simply the first step.
Never have the Frogs won the second game to complete the 2-0 start that puts a team in commanding position for a spot in the championship series.
They need no reminders of that.
“They know the deal,” coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “They know tournament baseball. You want to stay out of the losers’ bracket as long as you can. They know the value in this particular tournament of the days off and how it sets you up if you win the first two games.
“There’s no need to talk about it. You just need to go play a good ballgame.”
In 2010, the Frogs lost to UCLA 6-3 in the second game.
In 2014, they lost to Virginia 3-2 in 15 innings in the second game.
Tuesday, they face Vanderbilt, which won on a walk-off home run Monday in the completion of a suspended game against Cal State Fullerton.
“It really doesn’t matter what we did in the past,” Frogs center fielder Cody Jones said. “It’s what we do tomorrow. And right now, we’re preparing to win that one.”
Once a team has landed in the losers’ bracket, it’s a hard road to climb — even after a win in the opener.
Tuesday’s loser will have to play and win on Thursday, Friday and Saturday to reach the championship.
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The winner will only need to win either Friday or Saturday — having given itself two chances by remaining undefeated — to reach the championship round.
TCU almost climbed that difficult road in 2010. The Frogs defeated Florida State in a losers’ bracket game to reach and win a rematch against UCLA. But the Bruins, having suffered just their first loss at that point, came back and won the next day.
It’s a taxing effort that tests a pitching staff, and TCU appears equipped for such a run, if necessary. The Frogs would still have two legitimate starting pitchers to turn to for extra games.
But the best course remains to start 2-0. That would allow two days off and time to perhaps bring back Sunday’s winning pitcher, Preston Morrison, for a Friday or Saturday start and maybe a relief turn in the championship series.
At minimum, a 2-0 start would reduce the number of victories needed for the national championship to as little as three.
For the TCU-Vandy loser, going through the losers’ bracket might mean five victories in six games in seven days.
But that’s the big picture. The Frogs are thinking little picture — what’s in front of them — and that’s Vanderbilt.
“Any time you’re in this thing, you’re going to be playing great teams,” Schlossnagle said. “Whether it’s in the winners’ bracket or the losers’ bracket, it comes down to how you play.”
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407
College World Series
LSU vs. Cal State Fullerton, 2 p.m. Tuesday
TCU vs. Vanderbilt, 7 p.m. Tuesday
In its previous two trips to the College World Series, TCU lost its second game after winning the first. How the Horned Frogs fared:
L, 3-2 (15)