What did we just witness? This weekend's Fort Worth Regional had so much to offer to baseball fans. The obvious highlight was Monday's epic comeback that saw the Frogs inexplicably win a game in which they were down 8-1 with two outs left in the 8th. The excitement of that mind-melting comeback makes you almost forget that the Saturday match-up between TCU and NC State was still one of the best, most exciting games of the year. Besides the fact that none of the other games saw anyone legitimately challenge the Frogs for control of the tournament, there was still a lot of entertaining baseball going on.
NC State 3, Stony Brook 0
I don't know how many people were able to catch this game, but it was essentially a pitcher's duel between Zamora from Stony Brook and Curt Britt from NC State. No disrespect to a great performance by both of them, but the most interesting part of this game to TCU fans is probably that Curt Britt was also the pitcher that took the loss in TCU's Monday night comeback. Zamora kept NC State in check for 4 1/3 innings before NC State's Logan Ratledge's 2-run homer to left. That was basically the difference in the game as NC State won 3-0, and Stony Brook never seriously threatened.
TCU 10, Sacred Heart 0
Oh Sacred Heart. You guys really got a tough draw this weekend didn't you? Keep in mind that this team started out the season 1-14 and deserves respect for fighting back to a 23-32-1 record and winning their conference tournament. Unfortunately, they were just too over-matched this weekend. Cody Jones homered on the first TCU at bat of the game, and TCU went on to score 10 runs in a shutout win that saw the Frogs use just two pitchers in their first tournament game. Nice.
Stony Brook 11, Sacred Heart 6 (Sacred Heart eliminated)
Other than the first and last NC State games, this was my favorite game of the tournament. This game was under a rain delay for a while Saturday and the wet playing surface made it difficult for players to field balls which was, well, just pretty funny and entertaining. Stony Brook actually had a very respectable 35-16-1 season and won their conference regular season and tournament titles. In this game they scored five runs in the first inning and were up 7-0 after the second. I almost turned it off at this point. I mean, who comes back from being down 7 runs? Nobody, right? Sacred Heart fought back and threatened to make it a game with bases loaded situations many times, but just never could come through with the hit they needed.
NC State 5, TCU 4
This game. Oh, this game. Preston Morrison has a career high 10 strikeouts in each of his last two NCAA CWS Tournament games (CWS against Tech and this game). When you really need this guy to be on, he is on. NC State had incredible pitching from their freshman Brian Brown too, and it was just a pleasure to watch them go toe-to-toe. Not only that, but there were some serious fireworks. Garrett Crain hit an inside the park home run to open the scoring in the bottom of the 3rd. Almost immediately when TCU got back on defense in the top of the 4th, Crain let what could have been a double play go right through his legs and that error led to a 2-1 lead for NC State. Then Fagnan came back and homered to start the bottom of the 4th, making it 4-2 TCU. The Frogs carried a 4-3 lead into the 9th and seemed to have things in order after Ferrell struck out the first two batters. However, he walked a guy and gave up a go ahead, 2- run homer which ended up being the final run scored in the game.
TCU 8, Stony Brook 3 (Stony Brook eliminated)
Sunday was probably the most fun day of the tournament for TCU fans. Aside from the fact that we were facing elimination the whole time, TCU didn't really give us all that much to worry about. Coach Schlossnagle started Brian Howard against the Seawolves, and ended up looking like a genius in the process. On Sunday, he was "Schloss Nye the Baseball Guy." The game was tight until the 5th inning when freshman Evan Skoug uncorked a 3-run home run. After that, the Frogs were in control of the game and they kept it that way with a great performance from the bullpen.
TCU 8, NC State 2
This game was basically a double portion of Tyler Alexander with a side of Tyler Alexander. TCU's sophmore stud had a perfect game going into the seventh inning, and by that time the Frogs were already ahead 6-0. TCU ended up winning this one easily and Alexander finished a 3-hit complete game, saving the bullpen for the final showdown on Monday night.
TCU 9, NC State 8 (NC State eliminated)
What a difference an inning can make. This was the only game of the tournament in which TCU got a less-than-optimal performance from our starting pitching. Young lasted only four innings, giving up four runs in the process. Thanks to Alexander though, TCU had Trey Teakell to keep the game within reach through the first seven innings. In the eighth inning Ferrell came into the game and once again struggled with his control. NC State ended the top of the inning up 8-1. As Schlossnagle said "being down 8-1 with six outs left is pretty much as dead in the water as you can get." Things looked pretty hopeless, but mistakes by the NC State pitching staff and two big hits from the TCU bats scored 6 unearned runs in the bottom of the eighth and brought the game within reach at 8-7. The Frogs managed to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth on a run-scoring wild pitch, which sent Lupton into a frenzy. Brian Trieglaff was masterful in the final two innings and NC State did not manage another run before TCU pinch-hitter Elliot Barzlli's one out single scored pinch-hitter Evan Williams for the walk off victory. The "Thrilli from Barzilli" indeed (SO to commenter Philly Frog for that one). Way too much actually happened in this game to cover it all here, but a full recap of the game is available here and a Andrew Felts put together a really great infographic of the comeback itself in the final 3 innings.
When the dust settled TCU had secured an invite to the Super Regionals against Texas A&M and best of all, we get to watch more postseason baseball at Lupton. This weekend's tournament provided us with one of the most memorable games in TCU baseball history. It also showed us that this team has absolutely zero quit in them. I believe in this team as a serious national title contender a lot more than I did on Friday just because I know that, not only are they incredibly talented, but they will never stop fighting. Fight 'em until Hell freezes over and then fight 'em on the ice. You can bet your bottom dollar that this team will.