The No. 1 Horned Frogs used five ninth-inning runs to tie No. 15 Texas A&M, before winning the game in the 15th inning in walk-off fashion by a score of 11-10 on Saturday in the Shriners Hopitals for Children College Classic at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas.
“You’d hope to be playing a little cleaner baseball, but anytime these two teams get together, you’re pretty sure it’s got a chance to be a zoo, so that’s what happened,” said head coach Jim Schlossnagle.
The Aggies (9-2) called on closer Cason Sherrod to try and get the final three outs as the Frogs trailed 10-5. Sherrod entered and immediately walked Evan Skoug, Luken Baker and Josh Watson, loading the bases with no outs. Texas A&M head coach Rob Childress had seen enough, and Sherrod was taken out in favor of freshman Kyle Richardson.
Richardson struggled with command the same way Sherrod did, as he walked Nolan Brown and Cam Warner, making it a 10-7 game with the bases still loaded and no outs for the Frogs (9-1).
With TCU working five straight walks to start the ninth, Childress called on his third pitcher of the inning, junior LHP Kaylor Chafin (1-1). Chafin was able to strike out Ryan Merrill for the first out with the bases loaded.
On Chafin’s second pitch to junior college transfer Austin Ingraham, he ripped a ball into left field for his first hit as a Horned Frog, moving each runner up a base and closing the gap to 10-8.
Leadoff hitter Austen Wade struck out with the bases loaded and one out, part of a 1-8 night with four strikeouts, bringing up Elliott Barzilli.
Barzilli hit a first pitch ground ball to third baseman George Janca that he could not handle, as it skipped away into left field and allowed two Frogs to score, completing five-run ninth inning comeback. The play was ruled a single with an RBI, the runners then advancing a base each on an E5. Evan Skoug followed Barzilli’s single with a strikeout, stranding two runners and sending the game to extra innings.
Sean Wymer took over on the mound to begin the ninth. After 20 combined runs in the first nine innings, Wymer and Chafin settled in to a pitchers’ duel, both throwing scoreless innings in the 10th through 14th. Wymer was perfect in his five innings of relief, striking out nine. Through the first nine batters he faced, Wymer had eight punch outs, including six in a row. Chafin struggled at times during extra-innings, but still managed to keep the game even at 10 through 14 innings.
In the bottom of the 12th, TCU loaded the bases with no outs after a Barzilli double, a Skoug intentional walk and a bunt single by Michael Landestoy who came in as a defensive replacement at first base.
The Frogs could not find the timely hit though, something that plagued them throughout the game until the final frame. Josh Watson hit a hard ground ball to Austin Homan at short stop who threw the ball home to force out Barzilli at the plate. With the bases still loaded and one out, Brown struck out ahead of a Warner line out to left field that ended the Frogs’ threat in the 12th.
Wymer gave way to closer Durbin Feltman (1-0) after throwing 64 pitches in his five innings. Feltman worked around a two-out walk, sending the Frogs to the plate in the bottom of the 15th. Watson led off the inning with a single though he was erased on a fielder’s choice from Brown the next play. Warner walked with one out, sending Merrill to the plate with two runners on base and one out. Merrill smoked a 2-2 pitch into the right-center field gap, scoring Brown from second and giving the Frogs the win 11-10.
A big story of the night was the Horned Frogs pitching staff, despite giving up 10 runs. TCU recorded a combined 26 strikeouts, a school record. Three different relief pitchers had at least six strikeouts for the Frogs. There were two separate stretches of six straight strike outs.
“We learned a lot about our bullpen. Trey Morris, Sean Wymer in an extended role, those guys did a really good job,” Schlossnagle said. “It was a classic game in a classic tournament.”
Talented freshman LHP Nick Lodolo (2-0) struggled in his short outing, only recording two outs after surrendering 5 runs in the top of the first. Aggie leadoff hitter Nick Choruby drew a walk to open the game off Lodolo, the beginning of 30-minute top of the first that gave A&M a commanding lead.
Logan Foster hit a hard ground ball into left field following the leadoff walk. After a strikeout, Skoug had Foster picked off at first, but his throw skipped by Baker and into right field, scoring Choruby and moving Foster to second. Joel Davis then singled ahead of former Frog Walker Pennington who drilled a line drive over the wall in left. The Aggies added a fifth run on a single by Homan. The hit drove in Blake Kopetsky who reached on a hit by pitch and advanced to third on a throwing error by Barzilli.
Homan’s single was a hard line drive right back off Lodolo and it marked the end of his night. He gave up the five runs, four of which were earned, on four hits, one walk, one hit batter and two strikeouts.
When asked after the game if Lodolo was OK after being hit, Schlossnagle said that “his pride is hurt more that his body.”
The Frogs’ offense was on the brink of making it a game throughout the first eight innings, but could not find a timely hit. TCU did push one run across in the first as Skoug singled, advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored on a Baker single.
After making it a 5-1 game, the Frogs squandered big opportunities in the third and fourth innings. A Wade single and a Skoug walk had two on for Baker with one out. Baker got ahead in the count against the A&M starting pitcher, sophomore RHP Stephen Kolek, before Kolek battled back to strike out Baker. On the third strike, Wade was thrown out attempting to steal third base, ending the once-promising threat.
The Frogs wasted a one-out triple from Brown as he and Merrill were stranded in the fourth when Pennington robbed Evan Williams of extra bases on a leaping grab at the wall in left.
While TCU fought to stay in the game, freshman relief pitcher Jake Eissler was dealing. Eissler had a stretch of six straight strikeouts, and eight out of nine.
He threw scoreless frames in the second, third and fourth before running into trouble in the fifth. He gave up a triple and two singles, the only three hits he allowed in his outing. Two runs came home for the Aggies, extending their lead to 7-1. Eissler threw 4.1 innings of relief, surrendering two runs on three hits, a walk and eight strikeouts.
The Frogs showed signs of life in the bottom of the sixth as they scored two runs, highlighted by a RBI single for Warner and a run-scoring passed ball. TCU reliever Haylen Green, who threw a scoreless sixth, came back out for the seventh, but did not record an out and was charged with a run after he walked the leadoff batter, who eventually scored.
Cal Coughlin came on and walked the first batter he faced. A sacrifice bunt moved both runners into scoring position with one out. Hunter Coleman drove in his second of four runs on the night on a ground out to second, extending the Aggies lead to 8-3. Trey Morris was brought in as the fifth freshman pitcher and got the final out of the seventh.
The Horned Frogs narrowed the deficit to three in the bottom of the seventh on a two out RBI single by Brown to left field. The ground ball went under Pennington’s glove and rolled to the wall, allowing Baker to score a second run all the way from first.
Both teams went quietly in the eighth. Morris struck out the side in the top of the eighth before the Frogs stranded one in the bottom half. Leading 8-5 in the top of the ninth, A&M used a two-run double by Coleman off of Morris to extend its lead to five, a number that seemed insurmountable with the way the Frogs had been struggled to get timely hits.
The five run ninth and the walk-off in the 15th inning finished off a thriller that has come to be expected in the rivalry between the two teams after two straight epic super regional bouts in 2015 and 2016, both series that were won by the Frogs.
“What do you say between the games we have had against these guys over the course of time,” Schlossnagle said. “There is a lot of respect between our program and their program, there is a lot of respect from player to player and coach to coach.”
Following a nearly six-hour game that ended early on Sunday morning, the Frogs will return to the field for a 2:35 p.m. start against Ole Miss. Jared Janczak (2-0, 2.77 ERA) will take the mound for TCU. The Rebels are 0-2 so far in Houston with a 4-0 loss to Baylor and a 5-1 loss against Texas Tech.