Once TCU closer Riley Ferrell stepped onto the field at Lupton Stadium, he struck out the first two batters of the ninth inning, sending the Horned Frog faithful to their feet. Screaming and clapping in unison, fans hoped Ferrell would once again close out a one run game.
But NC State’s designated hitter Chance Shepard had other plans after Ferrell walked Ryne Willard. Shepard, who was 0-3 on the night, took a 1-1 fastball to the deepest part of Lupton Stadium over the centerfield wall to give the Wolfpack a 5-4 lead that the Frogs could not overcome in the bottom half of the final inning.
After the game, Shepard said he couldn’t even remember the pitch he hit to win the game for the Wolfpack.
“It’s pretty cool,” Shepard said. “Obviously it was the best moment of my life. It was awesome.”
The 5-4 loss to NC State (36-21) sends TCU (44-12) into Sunday’s loser’s bracket game of the Fort Worth regional against Stony Brook at 2:30 p.m. In order for the Frogs to advance through the Fort Worth regional, they will have to win three straight games.
Saturday night’s game had a little bit of everything.
Garret Crain began the scoring with an inside the park home run in the bottom of the third inning when he hit a line drive that got under left fielder Brock Deatherage’s glove to put TCU up 1-0.
But the Wolfpack answered back with a three-run fourth inning, when TCU starter Preston Morrison loaded the bases for Willard, who brought in two runs with a double down the third base line. After the two RBI double, a wild pitch that got by catcher Evan Skoug scored Joe Dunand from third to put NC State up 3-1.
In the next at bat, Shepard hit a groundball to third baseman Derek Odell, who threw out Willard at home.
After that, things got a little chippy as coaches from both teams came out to exchange words in regards to the slide from the runner and Skoug’s positioning in front of home plate.
Both TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle and NC State head coach Elliott Avent downplayed the event in the post game press conference.
Schlossnagle said the play was just a display of hard competitive baseball, while Avent said it was “much to do about nothing.”
TCU first baseman Jeremie Fagnan added on to the chaos in the bottom half of the fourth inning with a solo homerun that had the fans at Lupton Stadium out of their seats.
But NC State starting pitcher Brian Brown was able to settling things down by retiring the next three batters in order.
Besides the homers and a Cody Jones single that scored Crain from third after a leadoff triple in the sixth inning, Brown (7-3) was exceptional on the mound for the Wolfpack. Though the lefty gave up four runs on fives hits, he struck out eight TCU batters and did not surrender a walk.
Morrison was also effective for his team. The senior went eight innings and gave up three runs, two of them earned, with 10 strikeouts and two walks. Beginning in the fourth inning, Morrison retired 11 consecutive NC State batters.
In the bottom of the ninth, after the eventual game winning homer from Shepard, TCU right fielder Nolan Brown led off with a double, but shortstop Keaton Jones was bunted right back to the pitcher Travis Orwig, who threw Brown out at third. The next batter, Derek Odell grounded out into a fielder’s choice before Crain struck out looking to end the game.
Schlossnagle said sophomore right-handed pitcher Tyler Alexander will get the start for the Frogs tomorrow against Stony Brook.