TCU came into the season shooting for a fifth straight trip to the College World Series. With a month left in the regular season, the Horned Frogs will be hard-pressed to even make the NCAA Tournament.
The Frogs (19-17, 6-8) are fifth in the Big 12 and No. 86 in the RPI after losing three straight at Baylor over the weekend. They'll likely have to win the Big 12 Tournament to make an NCAA regional for the 14th time in 15 years.
"No question about that," coach Jim Schlossnagle said Monday. "If we went on some crazy run, we might be able to do it. It's certainly headed toward a conference tournament situation."
For the second straight year, TCU will finish the season without offensive star Luken Baker. The junior first baseman broke a bone in his left leg while running the bases against Abilene Christian last Tuesday. Last year, he injured his left arm in a collision at first base and missed the last 21 games.
The Frogs also have been without No. 1 starting pitcher Jared Janczak for all but one inning since March 30, and he likely won't return until the first week of May as he recovers from a nerve inflammation.
TCU's margin for error already was thin. Three players in their recruiting class got drafted and didn't come to school, and the Frogs entered 2018 having to replace six everyday players.
"Being a private school that doesn't have extra financial aid, we're like a small-market team in the big leagues," Schlossnagle said. "The guys that we're invested in, they have to stay healthy, they have to have good seasons, and when they do, we can compete with anybody. When we have misfortune or we make a mistake in recruiting or get hit in the draft, then the depth of our team gets exposed."
Schlossnagle was counting on pitching to carry the Frogs. But in addition to Janczak's problems, Saturday starter Sean Wymer had back issues in February and March. Janczak, Wymer and the other weekend starter, Nick Lodolo, have a combined 4.36 ERA — "not up to the level we like to pitch at," Schlossnagle said.
"Hopefully we figure something out and make a late run," the coach added, "but without Baker offensively, we have to play super, super clean fundamental baseball — especially against good teams — to win."
Here's a look around the country:
IN THE POLLS
Florida (34-8), which lost a midweek game to Jacksonville before winning two of three at Kentucky, remained No. 1 in the D1Baseball.com and Baseball America rankings. Stanford (30-5) swept three games at Arizona and was promoted to No. 1 by Collegiate Baseball newspaper.
LONGEST STREAK SINCE 2015
At 25 in a row, Tennessee Tech is on the longest win streak in Division I since Illinois reeled off 27 straight in 2015. The Golden Eagles (34-5) outscored Southern Illinois 33-9 in a three-game weekend sweep. They visit Tennessee on Tuesday.
10, BUT NOT TO WIN
George Mason freshman Jared DiCesare matched a national season high by pitching 10 innings Sunday against VCU, and he was efficient doing it. DiCesare threw just 99 pitches and retired the last 22 batters he faced after allowing three singles in the first three innings. He struck out seven, walked none and threw a first-pitch strike to 27 of 32 batters. He got no decision, however, as his team lost 1-0 in 12 innings.
Washington State recorded its second no-hitter in two weeks, with four pitchers combining to pull off the feat in a 5-0 win over Santa Clara on Sunday. Scotty Sunitsch no-hit Oregon on April 8. Parker McFadden, A.J. Block, Collin Maier and Ryan Walker gave the Cougars a second no-hitter in the same season for the first time since 1976.
9 POSITIONS, 1 GAME
Texas' Jake McKenzie played all nine positions in a 13-2 seven-inning win over Texas-Rio Grande Valley last week. McKenzie started at catcher, then played an inning at first, second, third and shortstop. He manned all three outfield positions in the sixth. He came on in relief in the seventh and got the last two outs.
Longhorns coach David Pierce said last fall he came up with the idea to have McKenzie play every position in a game. Pierce said it was not meant as disrespect to TRGV or the game. "It was a tribute to our true utility guy, and it was exciting to watch," Pierce said. "I'm really excited that we pulled it off."