TCU has now won their first two games of the College World Series for the first time in school history, after dropping their second game in three straight appearances.
The Frogs used a Luken Baker solo shot, his second home run in as many games, and a perfect 3.1 innings of relief from Ryan Burnett to hold off a Coastal Carolina team that had ridden a wave of momentum to the CWS.
Burnett’s performance was made all the more remarkable in light of the fact that he was pitching through a torn ACL in his left knee.
“I think Ryan Burnett is the story of the game,” TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “To come in there having not pitched all that much, and certainly not having pitched that length that he gave us out of the bullpen was outstanding.”
“I’m just so proud of Ryan,” Schlossnagle said. “The guy’s been through two surgeries, he’s pitching through a torn ACL that will more than likely get fixed after the season, and so for him to hang around and gut it out is just an awesome testament to his character and his strength.”
Baker’s solo shot, an opposite field laser that came on a pitch in the outside of the zone, lead off the second inning and opened the scoring.
“I got a fastball up and away that I could handle,” Baker said. “I was actually a little more excited than I’ve been for a few of the ones in the past, because it was my first opposite field one.”
The Frogs would tack on two more in the fifth inning, when a throwing error by CCU second baseman Zach Remillard helped lead to a bases-loaded situation for TCU.
Austen Wade walked on four pitches to score a run, and Cam Warner beat out a potential inning-ending double play throw to allow another run to score and give starting pitcher Brian Howard a 3-0 cushion.
Howard had a strong outing, with seven strikeouts, but his pitch count ballooned quickly as the Chanticleers worked deep into the count in their at-bats and got leadoff runners on in the first three innings.
TCU got a defensive boost in those scenarios from catcher Evan Skoug, who threw two lasers to second to catch Chanticleer runners stealing.
“He’s a better thrower than people give him credit for,” Schlossnagle said. “When we give him a chance as a pitching staff to throw somebody out, he’s throwing them out.”
TCU would add another run in the top of the sixth, as the Frogs once again loaded the bases with nobody out. Dane Steinhagen grounded into a double play, but Baker was able to cross the plate safely.
Coastal Carolina was able to get a run across in the bottom of the sixth, as Michael Paez scored from a leadoff double.
Howard walked the next batter after Paez scored on his 101st pitch of the night, and on came Ryan Burnett, who had perhaps his best relief outing of the year.
Burnett was ruthlessly efficient, using just 32 pitches in 3.1 innings and not allowing a baserunner.
“It feels awesome. I’ve been waiting two years on this,” Burnett said postgame. “I worked my butt off this fall and spring just to get here.”
“I’ve been Ryan’s roommate for three years now,” Howard said. “Seeing what he did night, and especially kinda saving me, which adds a little bit to it…it was one of my favorite moments since I’ve been a part of this program.”
“It was just a very, very exciting thing to watch, and I couldn’t be more proud of him,” Howard said.
Although he certainly didn’t need it, TCU gave Burnett two more insurance runs in the top of the ninth inning, when Michael Landestoy tripled to center and scored Ryan Merrill. A throwing error allowed Landestoy to come home for the final run of the game.
TCU now waits until Friday at 7 p.m. to play again. Coastal Carolina will play Texas Tech, who eliminated the Florida Gators Tuesday afternoon, on Thursday night. The winner of that game will take on the Horned Frogs.