Really? You would have held the runner at third base?And then what?When you lose a 3-2 game that would have sent your team to the College World Series, the what-ifs are ... well ... 90 feet long.What if TCU third base coach Bill Mosiello had not waved Jerrick Suiter home on Keaton Jones’ single in the eighth?What if Suiter had chosen to play demolition derby on the tag by Pepperdine catcher Aaron Barnett?But, above all else, what if the Waves’ Aaron Brown hadn’t turned the day into the Aaron Brown Show?He hits. He pitches. He throws the would-be tying run out at home plate to save the game.What else can Brown do?On Sunday, the Pepperdine junior threw seven innings and 119 pitches of shutout baseball, doubled for one of the Waves’ six hits, and then threw out Suiter from center field in a dramatic finish to the TCU eighth.All this at the end of a weekend in which Brown, as an outfielder, was the third-round draft choice of the Philadelphia Phillies.“Third-round pick as an outfielder — he looks like an awful good pitcher to me,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “To me, he’s the story of the game.”The Frogs had their chances against Brown, but went 0 for 12 against him with runners on base. Brown led the West Coast Conference this season in wins, strikeouts and opponents’ batting average against. As the Waves’ regular center fielder, he also led the WCC with 12 home runs.TCU’s daylong futility with runners in scoring position, Schlossnagle admitted, prompted the decision to send Suiter home from second base in the eighth. “How many other two-out hits did you see us get?” Schlossnagle asked. “You have to send him. You have to force the guy to play catch. And he made a great throw.”The play came at the end of a wild inning that was ignited by a two-error ground ball to shortstop. Suiter’s single to left scored Garrett Crain with TCU’s second run, and a stolen base put him on second with two outs.Jones’ sharp single to center, however, reached Brown quickly. The weak-hearted second-guessers — I’m probably one of them — would have held Suiter at third base. But as Schlossnagle said, then what?The Frogs’ No. 9 hitter, catcher Kyle Bacak, was up next. And Pepperdine coach Steve Rodriguez had senior closer Eric Karch ready in the bullpen.“As soon as it was hit to center,” Rodriguez said, “I thought, ‘We have a chance here.’ It was just a matter of the hop, the catch and the tag.“But it doesn’t surprise me. That’s just the kind of athlete [Brown] is, and I’m just fortunate enough to have watched him for three years.”Brown’s throw beat Suiter to the plate by three full strides. Catcher Barnett had the path blocked, and Suiter made a gallant effort to try to leap around him, though he could have elected to bulldoze into him.Schlossnagle sounded glad that he didn’t.“We have some crazy rules in college baseball,” he said. “So many times you see the flagrant stuff. It’s easy to look back and say that he should have gone through the catcher. But it’s not exactly something you practice.”TCU starter Preston Morrison held the Waves to three hits through the first six innings, but the Frogs’ hitting troubles left him no room for error. Pepperdine, meanwhile, made efficient use of Brandon Caruso’s two run-scoring hits.It’s a one-game series now. One game for the trip to Omaha. TCU will send freshman lefty Tyler Alexander of Southlake to the mound. The Waves will counter with Jackson McClelland. “Winner take all — what more can you ask for as a college baseball fan?” Rodriguez asked.For TCU followers, the answer to that will have to wait until Monday.
Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @gilebreton