Janczak powers through 8 innings to send TCU to regional title game

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Jared Janczak sailed through eight dominant innings on Sunday to give the Frogs a 5-1 win over Virginia and send them to the Fort Worth Regional championship game.

Janczak took the ball for the third time since missing four starts due to injury and tossed one of the most electric outings of the season. Janczak allowed just one run in his eight innings of work on six hits while striking out six. He held a four run lead the offense provided for him early until surrendering the lone run on two hits in the eighth.

“We knew going into it that they were aggressive hitters, and knowing that for me, with the way I pitch, I had to rely on my movement and deception to get guys out,” Janczak said. “I was using their aggressiveness against them to get quick outs and keep my pitch count down.”

After walking the leadoff batter in the ninth, the Frogs called on closer Durbin Feltman to put the Cavaliers away. Feltman walked the first batter he saw but struck out the next three Cavaliers to end the threat and complete a 5-1 victory. The save was Feltman’s 17th, and it came a night after he set the school record for most saves in a season.

“I was sick to my stomach late in the game when we had a chance to break the game open, and I felt like if you let those guys hang around, they can catch up to you quick,” said head coach Jim Schlossnagle. “But, that’s also the best Durbin Feltman has pitched this year, so I’m glad to see him back.”

When Janczak is at his best, he strikes out batters when needed, but mainly keeps the ball down in the zone to get ground balls. He struck out six Sunday but kept his pitch count low by getting early groundouts, and he stopped threats in the second and eighth innings with double plays. For the game, Janczak recorded just two fly outs compared to 14 ground outs.

“He had command of his pitches, especially early and in the middle innings of the game,” Schlossnagle said. “He was able to use their somewhat aggressiveness to his advantage. If you don’t make pitches to those guys, it can be a long night, really quick. Luckily he had that ball sinking down like he normally can, and we made some plays behind him.”

The Horned Frog offense got to lefty starter Daniel Lynch in the early going, pushing across a run in the second and three in the third to chase him from the game after recording just eight outs.

The five lefties in the TCU order combined to go 5-8 off Lynch, a day after the same lineup struggled to make consistent solid contact in game one against Central Connecticut State’s left-handed starter.

“We were just trying to see the ball on the outer half and see that breaking ball up and stay on it to go to left field,” Skoug said. “We knew he was going to work both sides of the plate, so we were just trying to not swing at the inside pitch until two strikes.”

Skoug doubled in the first but was stranded. Nolan Brown doubled to start the second and scored after consecutive ground balls. Ryan Merrill and Austen Wade both singled to start the third, with Merrill scoring on a ground out and Wade scoring on Skoug’s second double. Skoug then scored on an error to give TCU the 4-0 lead.

“We’ve been working on that all week,” Skoug said of the team’s gameplan for Lynch. “Especially because we were preparing for the lefty from Central Connecticut State.”

With four runs in and two out in the third, Virginia went to its most reliable reliever, Alec Bettinger. Entering with a 2.50 ERA and averaging a lofty 10.45 strikeouts per nine innings, Bettinger shut down the TCU lineup. He retired the first 13 Frogs he faced while striking out four.

Bettinger returned to the mound in the eighth and walked three, one intentionally, but managed to strand all three runners.

Ninety-four pitches into his outing, Bettinger started the ninth inning but a Michael Landestoy single ended his night. Bettinger went 5.1 innings of stellar relief, walking three and allowing one hit and one run.

“[Bettinger] is that senior that has pitched so well for us, and he’s been certainly one of our best pitchers,” said UVA head coach Brian O’Connor. “I felt like we were one swing away from being right back in the ball game. Unfortunately, we just didn’t get that swing.”

Bennett Sousa came into the game with Landestoy on first and walked one and hit a batter before Humphreys drove in the final run of the game.

Virginia will turn around and play on Monday at 2 p.m. against Dallas Baptist in an elimination game, while TCU will wait until 7 p.m. Monday to play the winner of the afternoon game. Senior Brian Howard (9-3, 4.29) will start Monday’s game for the Horned Frogs.