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Strong commitment helps TCU prosper

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Jim Schlossnagle remembers 10 years ago like it was yesterday.

Schlossnagle was an assistant at Tulane and vividly remembers someone polling 100 college baseball coaches and asking them which programs could rise to the occasion and be a national power if they made commitments to their respective programs.

Schlossnagle remembers TCU was on that list. And it made sense. After all, TCU is a university located in the fertile recruiting grounds of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex in addition to having the rest of Texas at its disposal.

Around the same time Schlossnagle read this story about potential big-time programs, the Horned Frogs were close to breaking ground on a new facility, Lupton Stadium. The facility was finished in 2003 while Schlossnagle was the head coach at UNLV.

The Horned Frogs pursued Schlossnagle after the '03 season and lured him to TCU to take over this potential national juggernaut.

Seven seasons later, it turns out that poll was quite accurate. Schlossnagle finally has guided the Horned Frogs to the College World Series. But the Frogs have made the NCAA postseason in all seven of his seasons.

"For so long TCU wasn't committed to college baseball," Schlossnagle said. "They had one of the worst facilities in the Southwest Conference during those days, and coach Lance Brown was just hamstrung by the lack of support."

"TCU basically had some alumni that made a decision to put some money into building a new ballpark. It was a good thing, too, because it's a good sell considering you don't have a ton of good private schools with programs in the southern half of the country."

Since his hiring, the relationship between Schlossnagle and TCU has been a match made in heaven. Schlossnagle carried the Frogs to a postseason appearance in his first campaign and hasn't skipped a beat.

The Frogs finally made their first super regional appearance last season with a trip to the Austin Super Regional to face Texas. The Frogs, of course, came up short in that series. However, Schlossnagle thought that series was a turning point for the program.

"I thought we really grew up as a program last season, even though we didn't get to Omaha," he said. "This season, we went out there each weekend and really expected to get the job done."

The Frogs made a statement early this season with a road series win at Cal State Fullerton. They also dominated the Mountain West Conference and likely would've been heavily in the mix for a national seed if not for a couple of bad games against Air Force in the regular season.

Still, the Horned Frogs earned their second straight regional at home and had no trouble advancing the Austin Super Regional again this season.

This time, the Frogs weren't knocked off the tracks by in-state rival Texas. Instead, the Frogs finally got over the hump by winning a pair of games with starting pitchers Matt Purke and Kyle Winkler leading the charge.

TCU finally punched its ticket to Omaha for the first time in school history. Now it hopes to earn its first national title.

"It's the pearly gates of my profession and the pearly gates of the sport," Schlossnagle said about the College World Series. "We went to Omaha when I was an assistant at Tulane in 2001, and we told our team it was special to be the first team to do something like that.

"That's exactly what I've been preaching at TCU for the past seven seasons."

Now that the Omaha obstacle is out of the way, the Frogs have the tough chore of heading to Rosenblatt Stadium and trying not to get caught up in the glitz and glamour of the event like so many first-time teams do.

Sure, the Frogs are ecstatic to be in Omaha. But this also is a team that strongly believes – with a record of 51-12 – that it can win the national title.

Texas coach Augie Garrido, who has carried his teams to a fair share of trips to Omaha, is convinced TCU could have something special at the CWS.

"They will go as far as their confidence will allow," Garrido said. "They have a good presence on the field, a well-designed team, good starting pitching, and they understand the importance of a closer.

"But teams also have to gain some momentum once they're in Omaha."

Perhaps TCU will be that team. But a decade ago TCU was just a program looking for an identity and an NCAA postseason appearance.

Now it is aiming for a national title.