OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – TCU fell to Vanderbilt 7-1 Friday night as the defending national champion Commodores eliminated the Horned Frogs from the College World Series and earned a return trip to the finals.
Vanderbilt pitchers Walker Buehler and John Kilichowski combined on a five-hitter and Rhett Wiseman homered to lead the Commodores (50-19) into the best-of-three finals starting Monday against the winner of Saturday’s game between Florida and 2014 runner-up Virginia.
Buehler (5-2), making his first start since June 1, allowed four hits and a run and struck out eight in 6 2/3 innings. Kilichowski allowed one hit the rest of the way.
TCU starter Tyler Alexander (6-3) was touched for three runs and seven hits in 2 1/3 innings for the Horned Frogs (51-15).
Thumb protector ‘Gary’ soothes TCU’s Jones in center field
ERIC OLSON, AP Sports Writer
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Cody Jones calls it “Gary,” and it’s his constant companion in center field.
The TCU outfielder has drawn attention from fans and cameras at the College World Series for tossing a small white thumb protector in his right hand between pitches. When the ball’s hit his way, he drops the thumb protector — aka, Gary. When the play’s over, he picks Gary out of the grass and returns to his position.
“I get questions, of course, all the time about what I’m doing out there,” Jones said. “I’ve been told people think I’m dropping the ball when I catch it and I drop it. People notice. They ask questions and stories get out.”
Thumb guards are commonly used by players when they bat. Why fiddle with one in the field?
Jones was looking for a way to stay occupied during down time so he wouldn’t engage in his habitual fingernail biting. During a series against Baylor last season, his dad came up with the idea of taking the thumb protector with him out to center field.
“It wasn’t some great big event or some revelation I had,” Jones said. “It was just a thing that happened.”
TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said he isn’t a big fan of “Gary,” but he can live with Jones’ idiosyncrasy if it doesn’t negatively affect his game.
“I drop it as soon as something is hit in my direction,” Jones said. “It’s not something that I plan to let get in the way. It’s just a method for me that helps me stay focused on the game. It’s just there for me. It’s something I do.”
Jones has committed only one error in 151 chances this season. He’s batting a team-leading .359 after being a .267 hitter through his first two seasons with the Horned Frogs. Two weeks ago, the Kansas City Royals drafted him in the sixth round.
The naming of the thumb protector was spur-of-the-moment, after an ESPN interviewer asked Jones what he called it. Jones turned his teammate Garrett Crain, and they came up with “Gary.”
SCARY MOMENT: Vanderbilt’s Rhett Wiseman was hit on the right side of his neck as he squared up to bunt in the first inning against TCU’s Tyler Alexander.
The Commodores’ athletic trainer and coach Tim Corbin tended to Wiseman for a couple minutes before Wisemen took first base. First-base umpire Patrick Riley was picked up on an ESPN microphone telling Wiseman to let him know if he felt light-headed and that play would be stopped.
“Way to hang in there,” Riley said.
Wiseman was no worse for the wear apparently. He singled and scored in his next at-bat and hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning.