One win is the only thing separating TCU baseball from the 2014 College World Series now.
With fans overflowing into the grass behind the outfield wall at Lupton Stadium, the Frogs beat Pepperdine 3-2 in the opening game of the Fort Worth Super Regional Saturday evening.
Once again, pitching would prove to be key to TCU’s success.
After a huge home run struck deep into the hearts of the Frogs late, sophomore closer Riley Ferrell stepped up when he was needed most.
“I was kinda in the zone,” Ferrell said. “I just stayed within myself and threw over the plate.”
Junior left-handed pitcher Brandon Finnegan made the start on the mound for TCU. The Fort Worth native struck out seven batters in the win, allowing only three hits and two runs in 6 1/3 innings pitched.
“I thought Finny was outstanding,” TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle said.
The Kansas City Royals selected Finnegan with the 17th overall pick in the 2014 MLB Draft Thursday.
The Waves got runners on base in the first five innings, but TCU’s defense held tough by routinely keeping them off the scoreboard.
A 14th round pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks, TCU first baseman Kevin Cron got his team on base in the bottom of the second with a single down the left field line.
Garrett Crain then hit a double, but Cron was called out at third base. Crain would get caught stealing third on the following at-bat.
“I thought those were the right plays,” Schlossnagle said.
The mental error would cost the Frogs at least one run as the next two batters hit singles to get on first and second. Keaton Jones later flew out to end the inning and keep TCU off the board.
Cody Jones reached first off a single in the bottom of the fourth before Odell got his first hit of the day on the following at-bat. With runners on first and second, Waves pitcher Corey Miller walked Boomer White to give the Frogs loaded bases.
Miller got the start for the Waves, but struggled early on. After three innings, Miller had allowed six hits.
Tihe right-hander allowed 10 hits and three runs in 5 1/3 innings pitched. The loss was the first time all year Miller had given up double-digit hits.
“I just didn’t have my best stuff,” Miller said.
Cron hit a shallow pop-up after White was walked to give TCU its second out of the inning. Crain then flew out to right field, keeping the Frogs off the board once again.
TCU left 10 runners on base in the win.
The Frogs would finally get on the board in the bottom of the fourth. Battling two early outs, TCU managed to get the bases loaded with Derek Odell at the plate.
Odell would drive in a single, scoring Keaton Jones, before a fielding error allowed Bacak to also score. Heading into the top of the fifth, TCU led 2-0.
Cron led the bottom of the fifth off by being walked. He’d take off right before Crain hit a single past first base and make it to third.
Crain would hit a fielder’s choice later on in the inning to score Cron and extend TCU’s lead to three.
The Frogs’ stout defense continued to keep Pepperdine off the board until the top of the seventh. When it looked like TCU would have a shutout on its hands, the Waves responded.
Pepperdine designated hitter Chris Fornaci hit his game-changing homer with a runner on base to make it a 3-2 game. Despite a superb first six innings of play, Finnegan’s day was over just like that.
“Thankfully, we still won,” Finnegan laughed. “I don’t like getting taken out, but Teakell did his job and then Riley came in and did his job.”
Trey Teakell then entered the game as a relief pitcher. He’d retire two straight in the seventh before allowing two singles in the top of the eighth.
Schlossnagle put in Ferrell with one out in the eighth after Teakell’s pair of allowed hits. Ferrell then got a massive strikeout on the ensuing at-bat before the Waves grounded out to end the inning.
“Ferrell came in and did a hell of a job,” Pepperdine head coach Steve Rodriguez said.
After a scoreless bottom of the eighth, the Frogs were officially three outs away from a win.
Ferrell kicked off the ninth inning by striking out Hutton Moyer with a 96 mph fastball. He’d strike out Fornaci on the following at-bat.
With a 1-2 count on Manny Jefferson, Ferrell delivered a 99 mph burner to earn the win. He now has 15 saves on the year.
Ferrell struck out four of the five batters he faced.
The win makes the purple and white officially away from its second College World Series berth in school history.
“We’re excited to win today,” Schlossnagle said. “I’m not trying to be cliché, but it’s one win and I know we’ll be ready to play tomorrow.”
The Frogs can close it out Sunday night with another win over Pepperdine. Big 12 Pitcher of the Year Preston Morrison will get the start on the mound for TCU.
First pitch for Game 2 is at 5:00 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.