When Haylen Green entered the regular-season finale on Saturday night, most felt it was just a matter of time before TCU baseball celebrated an outright Big 12 championship. Green is a first-team All-Big 12 closer and the Frogs had a four-run lead in the ninth inning at Kansas State.
Heck, a few may have even had stories written, just waiting to hit the publish button once the final out was recorded. But the final out was never recorded.
Instead, K-State stunned TCU by rallying to score seven runs and winning in walk-off fashion on a three-run home run. TCU ended up sharing the Big 12 title with Texas.
“It’s the toughest loss I’ve ever experienced in 30 years as a coach,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “It’s not even close. I’ve been a part of blowing leads in the ninth inning and blowing bigger leads than four runs in the ninth inning.
“But I think the reason it was the toughest was because of the way it happened and the confidence that we all have in Haylen. My confidence in him hasn’t wavered one single bit. To me, it’s a once in a decade experience because of who it is and how it happened.”
Green was named an All-Big 12 first-team closer on Monday. He’s tied for the Big 12 lead with 11 saves. His ERA was 2.08 before giving up seven runs Saturday and seeing it balloon to 3.48.
Green closed out Friday night’s victory at K-State, throwing 1 2/3 scoreless innings with two strikeouts.
Schlossnagle could have gone to another reliever, especially after K-State rallied to tie the game at 8-all, but didn’t want to send any wrong signals to Green.
“Whether that’s right or wrong, the most important thing to me is that Haylen Green remains as confident in himself that I am in him,” he said.
There were other layers to Schlossnagle’s decision to pitch Green, too. With the postseason coming up, he wanted to see how Green handled being used on back-to-back days. Green hadn’t pitched on consecutive days since mid-March.
Additionally, Green said he felt great warming up and reliever Charles King — who had thrown eight scoreless innings of relief — had just reached the 100-pitch mark.
“I called down in the seventh inning and asked Haylen, ‘How many innings do you’ve got?’ He said, ‘Two, easy,’” Schlossnagle said. “And Chuck was at 100 pitches after the eighth. If I know I’m going to use my closer, I try to give him a clean inning. If King goes out and gives up a single or walks a guy, then that gets the crowd going and you’re bringing your closer in with a runner on.
“So I just thought, we have a chance to win a conference championship and we have a first-team All-Big 12 closer. … There’s nothing about that game I second guess.”
The end result, though, has cost Schlossnagle some sleep. He felt terribly for Green and the team to endure that kind of meltdown. However, he made it clear that TCU is proud of winning a piece of the Big 12 championship.
“As I told the team, I’m not apologizing and no one here is going to apologize for being a conference champion,” Schlossnagle said. “Did it finish the way we wanted it to? No, but I’m not apologizing. It’s too hard to win a conference championship whether it’s shared or not. Texas deserves what they got and we deserve what we’ve gotten.”
The beauty of baseball is it’s on to the next game and TCU has a chance to avenge that loss when it faces K-State at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Big 12 tournament. Freshman right-hander Jacob Meador is expected to start.
The Frogs looked loose and ready during a light workout at the indoor facility Monday at Lupton Stadium. They’ll head to Oklahoma City on Tuesday.
Catcher Zach Humphreys described Saturday’s loss as a “gut punch,” but something the team is ready to recover from.
“The best teams are the ones who can respond to something like that,” he said. “Our team is in position to do so and what a better time to do it than the Big 12 tournament? You want to play your best baseball at the end of the season, so why not start now?
“Our best baseball is still ahead of us. We all firmly believe that.”
Get the latest news regarding TCU athletics in your inbox every Thursday morning.