Both Central Connecticut State and TCU looked a little rusty in the early goings on game two in the Fort Worth Regional, that finally kicked off at 9:45 pm Saturday night, as neither team broke through on the scoreboard through the first four innings of play. Pitching dominated the day, as Mitchell Traver threw a gem for the Frogs on one side, and was matched for the most part by the Blue Devils’ Smith on the other. But the Frogs struck first, gaining a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fifth, and advantage they would not ever surrender.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Frogs finally found a little offensive momentum, starting with a one out walk drawn by first baseman Connor Wanhanen. Wanny would steal second and take third when the throw down was airmailed into center field. Josh Watson followed with his first of two RBI doubles, and TCU was on the board,
It looked like the single run would be enough, as senior Mitchell Traver was absolutely rolling in front of the home crowd. Traver would finish a 7.0 inning performance after issuing a lead-off walk in the eighth, exiting with nine strikeouts, two walks, and just one hit allowed. That final walk would come around to score - the first run he had allowed in a home playoff start in his career - but did nothing to take away from what was a special night for Traver overall.
TCU tacked on a pair in the bottom of the sixth prior to Traver’s exit, starting with Evan Skoug’s second hit by pitch of the game, this one with two outs. Skoug, who was plunked in the helmet in the fourth inning - and escorted to first by the ump after ripping his helmet off in (righteous) frustration - took one to the elbow in the sixth. That started a two run rally for the Frogs, as he would advance to third on Cam Warner’s single and score a batter later when Brown punched one through to make it a 3-0 TCU lead. At 3-1 heading to the eighth, TCU looked firmly in control, but they weren’t done yet.
As the Frogs are prone to do, they tacked on a big crooked number inning late, putting up a six spot in the bottom of the eighth. And they would need just about all of it. After Cal Coughlin came in and worked around a double for a 13 pitch frame in the top of the frame, TCU struck big in the bottom half. Austen Wade started things off with a double and advanced to third as Humphreys singled behind him. That brought Skoug to the plate, and after a pitching change - the Blue Devils brought in a lefty - he lifted a no doubter to right on the first pitch he saw for a three run blast. The Frogs weren’t done yet though, as Warner followed the home run with a single, stole second on another bad throw, and took third on a passed ball. Brown followed that with a walk and Barzilli slammed one into the right field wall to bring them both home. Watson hit his second double of the game after Landestoy popped up, and the Frogs had a 9-1 cushion heading into the ninth.
That’s where things got dicey.
Wanting to save Cal Coughlin for another appearance, Schloss and Saarloos went to the pen and called upon Jake Eissler, who had been pretty good all season. Eissler came in throwing strikes - but CCSU was able to get the barrel on them, as he allowed three straight hits to open the final frame, including a lead off triple. Eissler walked the bases full with one out, and Evan Skoug tried to make a big play by catching the runner on a back tag, but he overthrew the ball and sent it careening into left field, scoring two to make it a 9-4 game. After another hit, Skoug was called for catcher’s interference, and the bases were juiced once again. Eissler got a huge K for the second out, but a double followed and all of a sudden it was 9-6. The Frogs were forced at that point to go back to the pen, making the call for Durbin Feltman, who came in throwing serious heat to get TCU out of the game with a strikeout for his 16th save of the season.
In all, TCU had seven players rack up 10 hits, led by Warner’s three. Seven players scored, four doubles and a home run were hit, and the Frogs had four walks and six strikeouts. The three and four hitters - who struggled mightily in OKC - were very good tonight/this morning; Skoug and Warner were on base six times, accounted for four runs and three RBI, and struck out just once. Watson’s big day is encouraging as well.
For TCU, the win - which was sewn up around 1:00am is huge; it sends them to the winner’s bracket where they will face off against UVA tomorrow at 4:00pm. Getting that kind of performance from Traver is big, but having to use three relievers coming off of it takes the shine down just a bit. It will be interesting to see how the appearance of Feltman effects his availability going forward - he hasn’t had a ton of work down the stretch, and threw only five pitches, but any time you get a guy up past the ‘getting loose’ stage starts to wear on them. But, for now, getting one win at a time is all that matters, and the Frogs did just that in the wee hours of Sunday morning.
Get some rest Frogs fans and do your anti-rain dances; tomorrow’s forecast isn’t promising. We will see you at Lupton for the next installment of the #ToadToOmaha.