TCU kept its hopes alive in the Mountain West Conference Baseball Championships as it rode freshman hurler Kyle Winkler to a 9-2 win over BYU in an elimination game Thursday at Lupton Stadium.
Winkler stifled the Cougars’ bats, allowing two runs over nine innings and striking out six. He improved to 6-0 on the season and equaled his longest outing of the year. Adam Miller (3-3) took the loss for the Cougars, allowing two runs over five innings of work.
“It begins and ends with starting pitching, there’s no other secret formula than throwing strikes,” TCU head coach Jim Schlosnagle said. “Kyle did that and he did it at a high level with good velocity and good movement. He’s got a chance to be a special pitcher.”
The Horned Frogs took a 2-0 lead to the bottom of the sixth inning when they loaded the bases with nobody out. The team almost missed a golden opportunity to extend its lead as they struck out twice with the bases full before freshman outfielder Brance Rivera delivered a two-out single that scored two runs and pushed the lead to 4-0.
“That was a big, big hit because the momentum would have swung the opposite direction,” Schlosnagle said.
TCU put the game away in the late innings when Matt Vern stole the show offensively, stealing home in the seventh and hitting a two-run home run in the eighth inning that put the game away.
It is a long road to the tournament’s final round coming out of the loser’s bracket, something TCU is familiar with after taking a similar path last season.
“We have every chance in the world to still win this tournament,” Vern said. “We needed a big time start from Kyle Winkler and he went out there and did an unbelievable job.”
The Horned Frogs will have to stave off elimination twice on Friday if they are to win the conference tournament. The first game will be at 3:00 p.m. against the loser of the SDSU-Utah game. The second game, scheduled for 7 p.m., will be against the winner.
Greg Holle will start the first game for TCU on Friday and Tyler Lockwood will be an option for the possible second game.