It was all tied up, 4-4, in the bottom of the 16h inning when freshman catcher Evan Skoug hit a groundball to third baseman Logan Notebrook.
Two outs were on the board and runners were on first and second.
It looked like a routine play, but Notebrook fumbled the ball as TCU’s Garrett Crain was running to third base.
Crain looked back and saw the ball on the ground and made the turn towards home plate. Notebrook noticed Crain was making his way to home when he was just halfway down the third baseline.
The third baseman threw home, but the throw was short, and the ball scooted past the legs of the catcher Michael Barash as Crain slid into home to score the run that would send the Frogs to Omaha for the second straight year.
When TCU shortstop Keaton Jones was asked about the game-winning run, he wasn’t sure why Crain decided to make the turn at third.
“I don’t know,” Jones said. “It is hard to answer that question. I saw Coach Mosiello give him the stop sign, but I don’t think he saw that honestly. It was an aggressive play and he was trying to score and it worked out in our favor. I am kind of glad he did.”
Crain’s game-winning run ended the game in the 16th inning giving TCU (49-13) a 5-4 victory over Texas A&M (50-14). The win sends the Horned Frogs to the College World Series for the third time in school history.
TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle said that Monday night’s game was the best baseball game that he’s ever been a part of in his 25 years of coaching.
“Unbelievable competition between our school and their school,” Schlossnagle said. “The fans were unbelievable on both sides and this was just a classic baseball game. I think it was one of the greatest college baseball games ever, considering what was on the line. I am really proud of my team and I am really proud to be on the same field with Texas A&M.”
But the game could have very well been over seven innings prior when the Frogs led the Aggies 4-2 in the top of the ninth inning.
Despite striking out out three consecutive Texas A&M batters after giving up a solo home run to Nick Banks in the top of the eighth, TCU reliever Trey Teakell didn’t come out to start the ninth. TCU closer Riley Ferrell did.
Ferrell, who has struggled in his last few appearances, blew another save opportunity. He hit Barash and walked Blake Alleman before he was replaced by Saturday’s starting pitcher Tyler Alexander, who walked Nick Choruby in the next at-bat.
After facing one batter, Alexander was replaced by reliever Preston Guillory. The Aggies were able to drive in Barash and Alleman with RBI groundouts from Mitchell Nau and Logan Taylor to send the game into extra innings.
From the ninth to 16th inning, it was a battle of the bullpens.
After Brian Howard replaced Guillory in the 11th, Howard and Mitchell Traver combined to pitch six shutout innings while surrendering just two hits and three walks. Over the course of the entire game, the seven Horned Frog pitchers, who took the mound, struck out a school record 25 batters.
The Aggies bullpen was also very effective. Mark Ecker only allowed two hits in four innings of work while Ryan Hendrix scattered four hits over 4 2/3 innings.
It appeared the Frogs were going to finally end the game in the 14th when they had the bases loaded with one out and Skoug at the plate. But the freshman catcher rocketed a groundball off of Hendrix that first baseman Hunter Melton was able to gather and then throw Crain out at the plate.
“It was a good hit right up to me and I was able to get my arm out there and it hit be in the ribs too,” Hendrix said. “Melton was able to throw him out and it was a big play, especially with the bases loaded. I felt it a little bit but it went away once I started throwing off the mound.”
That play was one of many close calls for TCU that could have either extended its lead or secure the win as the Frogs were 4-21 with runners in scoring position.
However, the Frogs were able to get some big runs in the fifth inning when they were able to breakup Texas A&M starter Tyler Stubblefield’s no-hitter. Stubblefield only allowed one base runner on a walk before he issued a free pass to Skoug, who later scored on an RBI single from Derek Odell to tie the game 1-1. The Frogs then took their first lead of the game when Keaton Jones doubled to left center to score Odell to put TCU up 2-1.
Then in the bottom of the sixth, TCU designated hitter Connor Wanhanen hit his first home run of his college career as he blasted 1-1 breaking ball from reliever Andrew Vinson over the rightfield fence. The two run shot extended the Frogs’ lead to 4-1.
The Frogs will now travel to Omaha to take on the No. 2 overall seed LSU in the College World Series. First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m. at TD Ameritrade Park.