Tuesday night’s winner’s bracket game against Vanderbilt was one to remember for TCU starting pitcher for Alex Young. But it was one that his counterpart, Phil Pfeifer, will never forget.
Young was throwing a no-hitter against the defending national champion in the seventh inning. He would go on to top his career-high strikeout total with 12 punch-outs, three of them versus the Commodore’s first baseman Zander Wiel.
But when Wiel came to leadoff the top of the seventh inning, he erased Young’s no-hitter with a no-doubt home run that landed in the seats in left field of TD Ameritrade Park.
The one blemish on Young’s final line ended up being the difference as Pfeifer was able to keep the Horned Frogs off the scoreboard as Vanderbilt went on to defeat TCU by a final score of 1-0. The shutout loss is the first for the Horned Frogs since March 11, 2014 when Rice blanked the Frogs 5-0.
“It was just one mistake and his bat just ran into the ball,” Young said about the pitch Wiel hit over the left field wall. “Every other pitch I was throwing for a strike. And it’s bad luck.”
Pfeifer, who did not play for Vanderbilt last season as he sought help for drug and alcohol related issues, was the main reason why the Frogs were never able to plate a run against the Commodores.
In seven inning pitched, the third round selection by the LA Dodgers gave up only four hits and recorded seven strikeouts in the shutout victory.
Pfeifer said he had been visualizing his first start in Omaha since he drove up from Nashville to watch his team play in last year’s College World Series without him.
“I was just trying to soak in every minute of it that I could while I was out there on the mound,” Pfeifer said. “I’ve been looking forward for this moment for a long time and playing it over and over in my head and I feel like taking advantage of today’s game was kind of what kept me at peace. I had seen that game before. So it was just enacting what had been playing in my head.”
TCU shortstop Keaton Jones, who went 1-3 against the lefty, said Pfeifer’s effective two-pitch combo was what kept the Frogs off balance at the plate.
“Well, he made a lot of good pitches,” Jones said. “He used his curveball. He was throwing that for strikes, and I think using his fastball and his curveball kept us off balance. I think mainly the use of the curveball is good for him especially against those lefties.”
Though the Frogs went 3-15 with runners on base and 0-9 with runners in scoring position, TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle credited Pfeifer’s pitching more than his team’s lack of discipline at the plate for the shutout loss.
“I think [Pfeifer] was great,” Schlossnagle said. “The only thing I felt like was when we had some opportunities there, I felt our guys, and they’re really trying hard. Their swings were a little bigger. Couple of guys were just trying to be the hero, which is nothing wrong with that. It’s just the key is that we just have to stay in control of ourselves and put good – put better swings on the pitches that he gave us.”
Schlossnagle also praised his own starter by saying that Young has the ability to pitch himself out of tough innings.
“Well, you know, he had all three pitches going tonight,” Schlossnagle said. “Key for Alex his entire career and he’s been so great at it lately is managing his way through the adversity that comes with being a starting pitcher like he did today. Ended up with the bases loaded or second and third and one out, whatever it was and pitched his way through it.”
Though the head coach won’t have his top two arms, Preston Morrison and Alex Young, for Thursday’s loser’s bracket matchup against LSU, he said he is confident that his pitchers and his veteran team will respond well to Tuesday’s loss.
“The way we handled losing a game in the regional, the way we handled losing a game in the Super Regional. They’ll be ready to play,” Schlossnagle said. “That doesn’t guarantee success at all. But we certainly — we feel confident in our pitching staff, that can give us a good chance.”