FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — After 16 innings, 547 pitches and a gutsy game-ending play by a senior who has been there before, TCU is back in the College World Series for the second year in a row.
The Horned Frogs needed a marathon finish to beat Texas A&M 5-4 early Tuesday, a week after overcoming a seven-run deficit after two outs in the eighth against North Carolina State just to advance to the NCAA super regional.
“It’s amazing the resiliency that this team has,” said Garrett Crain, who right at 1 a.m. scored the winning run from second base when a ball trickled just beyond the edge of the infield.
Crain had a 10-pitch walk to start the 16th before advancing on a wild pitch. Aggies third baseman Ronnie Gideon then made a nice backhanded stab to keep Evan Skoug’s two-out hard chopper from going down the line. But Crain kept running, through a coach’s stop sign, when the ball fell out of his glove.
Gideon’s one-hop throw skipped by the plate before Crain slid in, sending TCU (49-13) to the College World Series for the third time in six seasons.
“I think one of the greatest college baseball games ever, had to be, considering what was on the line,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said after 5 hours and 55 minutes to fill the eighth and final spot in Omaha.
Texas A&M coach Rob Childress described that agonizing final play as feeling like it was in slow motion.
“If you’re a baseball fan, you couldn’t ask for anything more. Game 3 of a super regional to get to Omaha goes 16 innings,” Childress said. “It just breaks my heart that it had to end the way it did.”
With the Frogs set to play LSU on Sunday, here are a few things to know about their super regional clincher:
SUDDENLY CAN’T CLOSE
Record-setting TCU closer Riley Ferrell struggled again. With a 4-2 lead to start the ninth, he hit the first Aggies batter, walked the next, and both eventually scored. In the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments, the hard-throwing righty has allowed nine runs (seven earned) with three blown saves while recording only six outs in five appearances.
“He’s the best that’s ever walked on this campus at that position, the guy’s had a couple of bad days,” Schlossnagle said. “I’m not giving up on him, not for one second.”
Ferrell has 14 saves, one short of his school record set last season, and was picked by Houston in the third round (79th overall) of baseball’s amateur draft Tuesday.
EASY AS 1-3-2
TCU’s Skoug almost ended the game with the bases loaded in the 14th, with a liner that struck pitcher Ryan Hendrix on the arm and ribs before ricocheting toward first base. G.R. Hinsley, in his first inning in the field, grabbed the ball and threw home for the force out.
“A super heads-up play to extend the game,” Childress said. “You don’t see a 1-3-2 very often.”
IN THEIR WORDS
Schlossnagle: “Part of it was incredibly enjoyable, and part of it was a beating all at the same time.”
Aggies junior catcher Michael Barash: “A loss is a loss in my mind, no matter if it’s a classic or it’s a regular nine-inning game. This one is going to sting because we have to hang on to this one for a while.”
TCU senior shortstop Keaton Jones, comparing the on-field celebration to a week earlier after the 10-inning win over North Carolina State: “It’s 10 times better cause we’re going to Omaha. … It’s that much more special.”
BY THE NUMBERS
1st — career homer for TCU freshman Connor Wanhanen, a two-run shot in the sixth that put TCU up 4-1.
2 — times “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” was played. Once during the second seventh-inning stretch and again in the middle of the 14th.
8 — innings that TCU had a runner at second base with one or no outs without scoring before the 16th.
8 — seniors on TCU’s roster, five of them everyday starters.
12 — pitchers used (five Aggies, seven Frogs).
25 — strikeouts by Texas A&M, the most ever for TCU pitchers in a game (previous record was 19).
50 — Wins by Texas A&M, for the first time since 1999. The 50th win was 2-1 in 10 innings Sunday to force the deciding third game.