Remember a couple of weeks ago at the Big 12 Tournament when Jim Schlossnagle said something to the tune of this team not putting together three “good” baseball games in a row maybe all season? He wasn’t wrong. These Frogs have had trouble pitching, hitting and playing clean baseball all at the same time this season, but not this weekend.
Brian Howard followed up excellent starts from Mitchell Traver and Jared Janczak with a very good one of his own. He went 6 2⁄3 innings giving up just two runs on four hits with three strikeouts and three walks. He threw 83 total pitches and held the Patriots scoreless for most of the night after giving up a two-run homer in the first.
After going three-up, three-down in the bottom of the first, TCU came into the bottom of the second inning facing a 2-0 deficit to a hot team. They responded with a three spot to make a big statement and give TCU a lead they would never relinquish. DBU’s starter Gavin Fritz issued two straight walks to Warner, Brown and hit Barzilli to load the bases with no outs. Wanhanen singled in the first two runs and Watson hit into a double play to score the go-ahead run and make it 3-2.
The Frogs tacked on six more in the third inning and the game was pretty well out of reach for DBU from then on. Zach Humphreys, the freshman DH, singled with one out before DBU issued back-to-back walks to Skoug and Warner to load the bases for the second straight inning. Brown singled to score two and Barzilli grounded into a fielder’s choice that brought home Cam Warner to make it 6-2.
Wanhanen walked in the next at-bat and both he and Barzilli moved up a base on a balk by DBU’s third pitcher of the night, Coby Weaver. Josh Watson, who hasn’t gone yard all year after hitting 11 homers last year, finally put one over the fence in right to make it 9-2. It has seemed like ever since the rain stopped on Sunday everything has gone TCU’s way, and Watson’s home run was symbolic of that. After a tough, and somewhat disappointing, month to end the regular season, these Frogs were having fun.
They piled it on from there, with DBU using a total of six pitchers on the night. TCU totaled 15 runs on 11 hits, and the DBU pitching staff issued 13 walks as the Frogs cruised into the Super Regional.
Connor Wanhanen was 2 for 2 with a run, two walks and two RBIs, Zach Humphreys was 2 for 4 with two runs and two walks, and Nolan Brown was 2 for 3 with three runs, three RBIs and two walks. Evan Skoug and Josh Watson were both 1 for 4 with three-run homers. Skoug’s homer came in the sixth inning to the deepest part of the ballpark to make it 13-2. It was his 18th of the season, the most of any Horned Frog since Chad Huffman matched that total in 2006.
For the first 24 hours of the weekend it looked like this regional could turn out to be an unmitigated disaster, but it ended up with TCU winning three straight games by multiple runs to earn the right to host the Super Regional at Lupton next weekend. Missouri State will be the opponent next weekend, and they’ll be a tough test but for now it’s time to enjoy everything going right for a change.
Every year there’s a couple of teams who gel in the playoffs and get hot at the right time. Sometimes that’s a team that nobody saw coming, but sometimes its a team that has been really good all season and just comes together when it counts. This team has experience playing both of those roles. When the curtain falls in Omaha, just maybe they’ll be there to take the final bow.