LAS VEGAS -- After perhaps the worst half-inning in TCU baseball history, the Horned Frogs rendered it a mere footnote with a gutsy ninth-inning comeback of their own.
TCU defeated San Diego State 16-15 Thursday in a wild-first round game at the Mountain West Conference tournament at Wilson Stadium. A Frogs victory was considered a foregone conclusion when TCU took a 14-4 lead into the top of the ninth, three outs away from victory.
The Aztecs had other things in mind and scored 11 runs on eight hits in the inning to take a 15-14 lead on the stunned Frogs. San Diego State scored in a variety ways, including two home runs, multiple wild pitches, a hit batsman and an error. Stefan Crichton, TCU's fourth pitcher in the inning, finally got a strikeout and flyout to put an end to the Frogs' biggest meltdown in coach Jim Schlossnagle's TCU tenure.
But TCU took the punches and returned the favor in the bottom of the inning with a knockout blow.
Kyle Von Tungeln drove an 0-2 pitch over the wall in right to tie it at 15-15 with one out. Davy Wright, who had replaced catcher Josh Elander before the ninth, reached on an infield single, and pinch hitter Josh Gonzales doubled to give the Frogs runners at second and third against the Aztecs' best closer, Justin Hepner. Jantzen Witte was intentionally walked to load the bases, and the Aztecs' defense was playing shallow to prevent Wright from scoring on a ground ball. That allowed Brett Johnson's floater to fall in just beyond the second baseman's glove, and Wright scored the winning run.
"Baseball is crazy," Schlossnagle said. "If you watch it, or coach it, or play it long enough, you'll see stuff like that. And for us to win that game? I'm sure there are a lot of people upset back home that we gave up 11 runs. But they need to be really excited that we won that game instead."
Indeed, TCU had built a seemingly insurmountable 14-4 lead with a five-run seventh inning. Trey Teakell was rolling on the mound since taking over for starter Brandon Finnegan, who allowed three runs in three innings. The Frogs were trailing 4-3 after a three-run triple by Jomel Torres in the fourth, but TCU took a 6-4 lead on Kevin Cron's three-run homer in the fifth, and then padded it with three runs in the sixth and five in the seventh.
From the fifth through the eighth, Teakell faced just one batter over the minimum.
But then came the top of the ninth. Torres' two-run homer with no outs got the Aztecs rolling as they scored 11 runs before the Frogs had the second out in the inning.
"It just kept getting closer and closer and seemed like we just didn't have enough runs to keep it out of grasp from them," Witte said. "Everything was falling for them.
"That's the most ridiculous game I've ever been part of."
TCU (36-17) meets New Mexico at 9 tonight in a winner's bracket game. Preston Morrison (9-0) will start for the 20th-ranked Frogs.
"I was a little too antsy on my first two swings, and I tried to relax and drive it," Von Tungeln said of his tying homer. "He ended up coming with another fastball down and in, and I saw it early and dropped my hands on it. It ended up being a home run, which is not what I was trying to do. I was just trying to get the next guy up."