The 28 hours worth of rain delays over the weekend were the only thing that gave the Frogs any trouble, as TCU (45-16) outscored Central Connecticut State, Virginia and Dallas Baptist 30-10. TCU starting pitchers went 3-0 in the regional, tossing 21.2 innings with a 1.66 ERA.
After giving up a home run in the first inning, starter Brian Howard gutted his way to his 10th win of the year. The win gives Howard consecutive 10 win seasons, marking the first time a TCU pitcher has won 10 or more in back-to-back campaigns in the last 51 years.
Howard allowed five of seven lead off batters to reach base in his 6.2 innings of work, but three double plays and timely pitching held the Patriots to two runs on four hits and three walks.
In 11 postseason appearances, Howard is 5-0 with 57 innings pitched to the tune of a 1.74 ERA while tallying 61 strikeouts. Howard has been the winning pitcher in each of the last two regional-clinching games.
“It is always fun to play regionals, and it is really a testament to my teammates for putting me in this position two years in a row,” Howard said. “We are very happy we got it done, and we are looking forward to whatever comes next.”
Dallas Baptist scored all three of its runs on two home runs, its 12th and 13th of the tournament. The Patriots finish the season third in the country with 97 homers.
“I’m just so respectful of their hitters and the week that they had been having,” said head coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “Even when we were up 9-2 early in the game, no disrespect to Brian, but a walk, an error and one swing of the bat, the way they are swinging it and the way the ballpark was playing, it could change.”
Josh Watson hit his first home run of the season to lead an offensive charge that saw the Horned Frogs score 15 runs on 11 hits. Dallas Baptist pitchers surrendered 18 free bases on 13 walks, two hit batters, two wild pitches and a balk.
“They did a good job, but we gave them a ton of free bases,” Dalla Baptist coach Dan Heefner said. “That makes it a lot easier on an offense, and then they capitalized as well. At one point, they had 10 runs on only four hits. A lot of that was our doing, but that’s what good hitters do. When you give them free bases, then they take advantage of it.”
The home run in the third inning was Watson’s first long ball since May 28, 2016, when he hit his 11th homer of his freshman season. In his first year as a Frog, Watson hit a round-tripper every 22 at bats. In 2017, it took Watson 210 at-bats to get his first ball over the fence.
Down 2-0 after a two-run shot in the top of the first off Howard, TCU scored three in the second to go ahead for good. DBU starter Gavin Fritz walked two and hit one to load the bases before Connor Wanhanen tied the game at two with a single, and Watson grounded into a double play to score another.
The Frogs blew the game open in the third as a single and two more walks loaded the bases again to allow Nolan Brown to pick up his second two-run single of the regional. A fielder’s choice and a wild pitch scored two more before Watson lined the homer to right to make the score 9-2.
“I got down 0-2 pretty quick,” Watson said. “Right now, my mentality is just going to the plate and battling, trying to win pitches and putting the bat on the ball. Sometimes you get lucky and square one up, so I was happy to contribute to the team.”
With Howard settled in, TCU added a run in the fifth and four in the sixth. Evan Skoug’s 18th long ball of the season highlighted the sixth inning that put the Frogs ahead 14-2. With the home run, Skoug has the most round trippers by a Horned Frog since Matt Curry hit 18 in 2010. For his career, Skoug is 5th all-time at TCU with 34 homers.
TCU put its final run on the board in the bottom of the seventh as a lead off walk by Skoug turned into Brown’s third RBI of the game on a single.
The regional win was TCU’s seventh in 10 years and sixth at Lupton Stadium. The Frogs are now 31-18 in regional play and 20-3 at home.
The Frogs will play Missouri State (43-18) in the Fort Worth Super Regional next weekend with a spot in the College World Series on the line. TCU will need to take two of three from the Bears to advance to its fourth straight College World Series and fifth in eight seasons.
“I’ve followed their program a lot,” Schlossnagle said about Missouri State. “Their coach has been there a very, very long time and has run a great program for a very long time. They have outstanding players and obviously a lot of power. If you go into Arkansas and win a regional, you have a good team. That’s what you get this time of year. You don’t float on a magic cloud all the way to Omaha. You have to play your way there.”