TCU jumped out to an early lead in Thursday’s elimination game on the strength of yet another outstanding performance by sophomore Jared Janczak and held on for a 9-4 win that advanced them to Friday’s game three and sent the Sooners packing.
Janczak was outstanding in 5.0 innings of work Thursday, allowing just three hits and one walk while striking out eight over 77 pitches. But it took five pitchers to close out a game that should have never been in doubt.
It appeared we had a pitcher’s duel on our hands early, as Janczak and OU’s Jake Irvin traded scoreless first frames. But Irvin lost his control in the bottom of the second, allowing three runs on three hits and three walks, highlighted by a Josh Watson double. Watson would have two of the game’s biggest plays - his two-RBI double as well as a leaping, home-run robbing grab in left that kept OU off the board soon after TCU had taken the lead. It would be the sixth inning before either team scored again, as Janczak was masterful and Irvin settled down after taking a line drive to the shin.
TCU added some insurance in that sixth inning, scoring a run on the strength of a pair of hits, a wild pitch, and a couple of steals. They broke things open in the seventh when the Sooners fell apart; Wade started the frame with a single and was doubled home by Evan Skoug. Skoug scored on a throwing error that allowed Nolan Brown to reach safely, and he would steal a base and score on an Elliott Barzilli single. In all TCU scored three runs total in the frame to stretch their lead to 7-0. The Frogs pushed a pair across in the eighth as OU threw the ball all over the park - a couple of walks, a couple of errors, and a couple of hits made it a 9-0 ball game.
Meanwhile, Charles King gave the Frogs three innings of 1-hit ball, looking like the future star we saw in the early season. He gave way to Austin Boyles in the ninth, just as the Sooners found an extra offensive gear. OU started their final inning with a lead-off double, and had two on after a nine pitch at bat ended in a walk. A second consecutive free pass loaded the bases, but a three pitch strikeout had TCU back in business. But, with the bases loaded, the Sooners pushed a run across on a single, and the Frogs went to the pen and called for Jake Eissler. Eissler surrendered a first pitch RBI single and then walked the next two batters he faced, and all of a sudden it was a 9-4 ball game. That forced Jim Schlossnagle’s hand and he went back to the pen for Durbin Feltman in a must-win game - the closer who had struggled over much of the last month looked like his usual, dominant self as he got a first pitch pop-up and an 0-2 fielder’s choice to end the ball game.
With the win, TCU moves on to face the loser of Texas/Kansas Friday night, with first pitch scheduled for 7:00pm. The Sooners are out of the tournament with their second loss, but should receive a bid to the NCAA tournament. The Frogs, meanwhile, will be pitching poor for the foreseeable future, having already used Sean Wymer, Cal Coughlin, Austin Boyles, Charles King, Jake Eissler, and Durbin Feltman. Seven TCU starters accounted for 11 hits, highlighted by Elliott Barzilli’s three singles. Austen Wade and Cam Warner had two hits a piece, while Warner was the only Frog with a multi-RBI game, with a pair. Nine different Frogs scored the nine runs.
The Frogs will likely turn to Brian Howard Friday to keep their tournament hopes alive, hoping he can not only return to post season form, but give them a vintage, 7-8 inning performance. 1-2 more wins would go a long way in ensuring TCU can play at home through the bulk of the post-season, as they hope to strengthen their case for a national seed.