Big 12 baseball: TCU overcomes injuries as lineup comes alive against OU

TCU's Austin Henry catches a fly ball during the team's college baseball game against Texas Tech on Saturday, May 18, 2019, in Lubbock, Texas. (Sam Grenadier/Lubbock Avalanche-Journal via AP)

OKLAHOMA CITY — Jim Schlossnagle has been at TCU for 16 seasons. Not since 2006 has he seen something like this.

That was the year the Horned Frogs put up 12 runs in the first inning against Baylor. Thursday, they scored 14 in the fourth inning of a 15-3 win over Oklahoma in the Big 12 tournament.

That’s hard to believe considering what’s happened to TCU’s lineup this spring. It beat Virginia and Vanderbilt earlier this season, before injuries a toll. Most notable was freshman outfielder Porter Brown.

“We’ve had 15 guys go down for at least 15 games or more,” Schlossnagle said. “We’re just a shell of who we were at the beginning of the season, so I’m just proud of these guys for competing.

“I’m not making excuses, those are reasons. I’m not pouting … We still show signs of being a good offense. This ballpark, those first two balls of that inning are normally outs at most places, but today they weren’t. We were able to take advantage of it.”

TCU (30-25) likely needs to win the Big 12 tournament to make a regional. With that in mind, it wasn’t hard for players to stay engaged with a 14-run lead.

“Knowing we’re one loss away from our season potentially being doing, you’ve got to stay in it,” junior first baseman Conor Shepherd said.

• Down and out: OU pitcher Levi Prater wasn’t himself while surrendering five runs on three hits in just 1/3 inning of relief. He was one of several Sooners who caught a virus that swept through the clubhouse recently.

“He lost 15 pounds from it,” OU coach Skip Johnson said. “It was a big-time virus. We had 4-5 of those guys. Wyatt [Olds] was the same way.”

Olds surrendered one run on two hits in 2/3 innings relief.

TCU catcher Zach Humphreys noticed Prater wasn’t throwing as hard as usual.

“I was seeing his stuff pretty well,” Humphreys said. “He didn’t quite have the velocity he normally had. He’s normally a pretty good pitcher. It was nice to have him not have his best stuff and take advantage of it.

• OU’s NCAA case: The Sooners are 3-7 over their last 10 games, which doesn’t paint a pretty picture for the NCAA selection committee.

Johnson tried to explain that shouldn’t matter. He believes OU, which is No. 39 in the latest NCAA RPI, could be its old self next week if it’s allowed to continue the season next week as one of 64 teams selected to a regional.

“We live in a reset age,” he said. “All these guys play video games and it’s not like they’ve lost any confidence. But all of a sudden, we struggle and then all of a sudden, we play good. But that’s part of the reset age we live in. If you weren’t playing good in a video game, then you reset it. And they are really good about doing that.”

• Closing point: Brylie Ware went 1 for 3 in what could be his final game in an OU uniform. The next few days he and the Sooners will be on pins and needles ahead of Monday’s NCAA selection show (11 a.m. ESPN).

“These are guys that I will call brothers for the rest of my life,” Ware said. “That’s one thing I know I can take away [from this season]. We still have a decent shot of getting into a regional, so we just have to go out and hopefully perform.”

Palmateer is sports editor for for The Norman Transcript, a CNHI News Service publication.