Is it wrong if my main reason for wanting TCU to keep winning is to see Big Game Howie pitch in purple one more time?
As catcher Evan Skoug has learned, mound visits are discouraged.
"Brian doesn't always like it when I go out there," Skoug said. "Most of the time, I'm just trying to give him a breather, make a joke, get him out of his own head. He shoves me off."
Skoug stayed in his crouch for seven innings Tuesday as Howard pounded the strike zone. After surrendering a double to George Janca to open the eighth inning, Howard was finished, having thrown 70 of 91 pitches for strikes.
"Today was probably the best stuff I had all season," Howard said.
Howie was incredible, but Merrill’s big moment was just as special. Hitting a home run, in your home town, in an elimination game in the CWS? That’s pretty cool.
Merrill graduated from Millard West High School in Omaha and passed on a chance to walk on at Nebraska, opting instead to play two years at nearby Iowa Western Community College. The St. Louis Cardinals drafted him in the 15th round in 2015, but he opted to go to TCU for the possibility of someday returning to his hometown to play in the CWS.
He became the starting shortstop last year and the Frogs made the CWS, where he batted .300 with a .462 on-base percentage and made the all-tournament team. In the Frogs' first game in this year's CWS he went 1 for 3 in a 3-0 loss to Florida on Sunday.
In his first at-bat Tuesday he drilled Kolek's 1-2 pitch off the back wall in the right-field bullpen for his sixth homer of the season and seventh of his TCU career. Evan Skoug doubled in a run and Elliott Barzilli had an RBI single to make it 4-0.
Well, that was just a lot of fun, wasn’t it.
TCU starter Howard (12-3) earned the win, going seven-plus innings and giving up one run on five hits with a career-high 12 strikeouts. The Oakland A's eighth-round pick recorded the first six outs of the game all via strikeout with a Shewmake double to left center the only other at-bat in the first two innings. Wymer earned his second save of the year, throwing the final two scoreless innings with no hits and two strikeouts.
No Aggie had multiple hits while the Horned Frog pitchers struck out 14 and only allowed five hits. For TCU, Barzilli was the only player with multiple hits, going 2-for-3 with an RBI.
A&M (41-23) sees its season come to an end and, after going two-and-out, has not won a College World Series game since 1993. TCU (48-17) advances to play the Florida-Louisville loser on Thursday at 7 p.m. Central in another elimination game.
Just insane numbers. Anyone doubt Howie will make it to the bigs?
3. They probably don’t keep this stat, but where would Brian Howard’s 76.9 strike percentage rank among TCU performances? He threw 91 pitches, 70 for strikes against Texas A&M. He threw a first-pitch strike to 23 of the 26 batters he faced. He walked none. He hit none. No wild pitches. Twenty swing-and-misses. He called it the best stuff he’s had all year. Who’s going to argue?
There were a few scattered “who’s your daddy” chants in the stands, but for the most part, TCU fans treated the win like it was expected.
“We’ve fought some awesome games with those guys, and we’ve been fortunate to come out on top in a few of them,” Schlossnagle said. “But it doesn’t diminish how much respect we have for their program, I have for Rob, we have coaching staff for coaching staff.”
TCU has won seven of the last nine meetings against the Aggies, all but one in postseason. All-time, A&M leads the series 162-94-4. TCU is 9-6 against the Aggies under Jim Schlossnagle, including 16- and 15-inning victories.