The Frogs (48-16, 17-7 Big 12) faced pressure and, once again, overcame it, defeating conference rival Texas Tech 3-2 on Father’s Day in their 2014 College World Series opener.
After TCU led 1-0 for most of the game, Ferrell gave up an RBI-triple to Tech’s Tyler Neslony in the eighth inning. Out of nowhere, the Red Raiders (45-20, 14-10 Big 12) had the Frogs on the ropes and the pressure was on.
Even after that though, TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle said he didn’t feel it.
“I was never going to take [Ferrell] out,” Schlossnagle said. “You gotta find a way to scramble and win the first two games. And you have to do that with your best pitchers.”
The TCU offense did just that as sophomore Boomer White singled to left field for the eventual game-winning RBI. White has been partially responsible in three postseason game-winners this year.
Big 12 Pitcher of the Year Preston Morrison got the nod to start the game and left in the seventh inning, but not before striking out a career-high 10 batters.
It was a very different story when he faced Tech earlier in the year. Morrison was the starting pitcher in a 10-2 loss to the Red Raiders on March 22.
Plenty has changed since then.
Morrison was in control from the start, striking out two of the first three batters he faced. The junior right-hander is only the third pitcher to ever have 10 or more strikeouts in a College World Series game at TD Ameritrade Park.
“The first outing against Tech wasn’t me at all,” Morrison said. “I didn’t have any control. Today my slider was on point and I was able to locate my fastball when I needed to.”
TCU got on the board early with a Boomer White sacrifice fly to score center fielder Cody Jones from third. After that, it was all pitching for most of the game.
Tech’s Chris Sadberry threw seven innings and struck out five batters. The redshirt junior seemed to be in control all afternoon, allowing only one run and three hits in seven innings pitched.
After the Red Raiders seized control in the top of the eighth off Neslony’s big triple, Texas Tech head coach Tim Tadlock pulled Sadberry for closer Jonny Drozd, who entered Sunday’s contest with a 7-0 record.
White’s single would help hand Drozd his first loss of the day.
Drozd let the Frogs back in the game with hits from Keaton Jones and Cody Jones.
White then came up with his deep single later in the bottom of the eighth to score Cody Jones.
Jones scored two of the TCU’s three runs on the day.
Tadlock blamed himself for putting his team in a tough position with the pitching move.
“Now we can go hindsight and go: ‘Why didn’t we leave him in, right?’” Tadlock said. “Had to listen to the dumb manager.”
Sunday’s game was the first time Texas Tech had ever played in a College World Series game.
After the Frogs took the lead, Ferrell kept the Red Raiders off home plate to earn the win. Ferrell is now 3-1 on the season.
With the loss, Texas Tech faces elimination and will play Ole Miss in a win-or-go-home situation on Tuesday afternoon.
TCU, on the other hand, enters the winners bracket and faces Virginia, the only other national seed in the CWS, on Tuesday night.
Schlossnagle said he’s up to the task of preparing his team, but knows it will be settled on the diamond come Tuesday night.
“We’re going to run a lefty up there that’s not bad [in Brandon Finnegan],” Schlossnagle said. “And I’m sure they’ll put a pitcher out there. We’ll go compete and see what happens.”
If the next game is anything like TCU’s last few, it’ll be close from start to finish. One run has decided six of the last seven games for the Horned Frogs.
“The way I can explain it is every team in the College World Series is resilient,” Schlossnagle said. “You can’t get here without having that character trait as a team. Our guys, we play in so many close games.”
TCU owns a 5-1 record in its six one-run postseason games.
When asked if his diamond created from pressure is a team of destiny, Schlossnagle laughed.
“It’s hard to say,” he said. “I believe teams that have really good starting pitching can win baseball games. So if that’s destiny. I’ll take it.”
The purple and white’s march to destiny continues on Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m. from TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb.
They should be up to the pressure.
A correction to the story has been made to reflect that Riley Ferrell is a sophomore. A previous version stated Ferrell was a junior.