OKLAHOMA CITY — TCU’s season was hanging by a thread.The Horned Frogs, down two runs with only three outs remaining late Thursday night, exploded for six runs in the ninth inning to stun Oklahoma State 8-4 at the Big 12 tournament at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.TCU was already in a must-win situation before the weather-delayed game began at 9:10 p.m. Thursday. When it finished at 12:35 a.m. Friday morning, the Frogs (29-26) had kept their season alive with their most dramatic comeback victory of the season.“The baseball gods looked on us there,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “If you just commit to having consistent, competitive at-bats it can turn out for you, if you can keep the game close enough, and [pitcher Trevor Seidenberger] did.”More on the heroic relief performance of Seidenberger later. First, about that six-run rally in the ninth ... how’d that happen?TCU batted around in the ninth, collecting five singles, two walks and a hit batter. The Frogs had seven hits the first eight innings. With one out and no one on base, Boomer White and Jantzen Witte singled with two strikes and Paul Hendrix loaded the bases with a walk. Cowboys closer Brendan McCurry, who the Frogs’ beat with a three-run, ninth inning rally April 14, replaced Vince Wheeland with the bases loaded. Derek Odell, who had lined out to shortstop in his previous at-bat and driven in the Frogs’ first run in the third, tied it 4-4 with a two-run bloop-single in shallow center field. White scored easily and Witte rounded third and caught the Cowboys outfielder off guard, who never made a play at home.“I thought if we could just get a couple guys on, I knew if we could just get to Odell he would give us a chance to at least tie the game,” Schlossnagle said. “Boomer and Jantzen [came through] on 0-2 pitches, both of those guys did a really good job.”After Kevin Cron was intentionally walked to load the bases again, Keaton Jones was hit by a pitch to score Hendrix with the go-ahead run. Brett Johnson, whose double April 14 beat McCurry, came through again with a two-run single to give TCU a 7-4 lead. Cody Jones, who started the inning with a fly out, reached on an infield single to drive in the final run of the rally. Johnson has 10 RBIs this season and five of them have come in the ninth inning against Oklahoma State.TCU, which continues with a pool play game against West Virginia (31-26) at 4 p.m. Friday, must win the Big 12 tournament to earn a berth in the NCAA tournament for the tenth consecutive season. A loss Thursday would have made it nearly impossible, although not completely. The team with the best record in the two four-team pool play brackets after three games, advances to the championship at 1 p.m. Sunday. If TCU is tied with another team in its pool, the tiebreakers are first head-to-head in the pool. The second tiebreaker is seeding. TCU is the seventh seed, the lowest in its pool, which would leave the Frogs out of the title game and done for the season.That predicament was in the back of Witte’s mind late Thursday. The fifth-year senior is playing his final games at TCU, hoping to stretch out his career as long as possible.“It was definitely in the back of my mind that it’s bad news if we end up losing this game,” said Witte, who was 3-for-5 with two runs scored. “As the game went on, it was going by quickly, and we just weren’t scoring runs. We definitely want to be in control of our own destiny.”The Frogs remain in control thanks in large part to the herculean job by Trevor Seidenberger. He replaced starter Preston Morrison with two outs in the fourth inning and struck out a career-high nine batters in the final 5 1/3 innings. He earned the victory and saved the Frogs’ bullpen from using up arms for the next two games.“Obviously, Seidenberger was the story of the game,” said Schlossnagle, who felt if the Frogs could stay close against OSU ace Jason Hursh, they’d have a chance against the Cowboys’ bullpen. “I’m really proud of the way we competed. In the first four or five innings against Hursh — he’s a great pitcher and going to have a great pro career — I thought even when we made outs, they were competitive. I felt like if we could get him out of the game with the game close we could have a chance.”But going into the ninth, TCU was against the ropes and wobbling, trying to stay on its feet.The Cowboys (39-15) tagged Morrison with four two-out runs in the second inning to take a 4-0 lead. With one out, Robbie Rea reached on a bloop double that dropped in front of a diving Brett Johnson in right field. Morrison then walked Jarrett Higgins on a 3-2 count with two outs. An infield single in the left-side hole by Saulyer Saxon loaded the bases for Donnie Walton, who singled just over the glove of Keaton Jones at short to score two runs. Tanner Krietemeier drove in two more runs with a double in the left-center gap to make it 4-0.TCU had plenty of chances to score early but often came up empty. The Frogs stranded eight runners through the first five innings against Hursh. TCU had two runners on in the first, second and fourth innings but failed to push a run across. Hursh forced Odell to fly out to end the first after Witte doubled and Hendrix walked. Cron led off the second with a bunt single and moved to second when Kyle Bacak reached on an error at second with one out. But again Hursh struck out Johnson and induced a groundout from Cody Jones to end the inning.Witte scored in the third to make it 4-1 after leading off with a single and moving to third on a two-base throwing error by Hursh on a pickoff attempt. Odell’s flyout to right scored Witte.“In the end, the hits started falling for us and things started going our way,” Witte said.TCU must face WVU ace Harrison Musgrave on Friday. Musgrave (8-1), a lefty, was named the Big 12 Pitcher of the Year this week. TCU left-hander Brandon Finnegan (0-7), who has an 1.90 ERA, will go for his first win of the season. The Frogs have struggled to score runs in his starts this season.
Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @FollowtheFrogs