COLLEGE STATION -- TCU has turned its fortunes around with three consecutive wins in the NCAA regional tournament at Blue Bell Park.
After losing their first game Friday, the Horned Frogs fought back to force a championship rematch at 6:35 tonight against Ole Miss.
TCU (39-20) won twice Sunday, including a 5-2 win over the Rebels on Sunday night to force the decisive game. Earlier Sunday, the Frogs defeated Texas A&M 10-2 to eliminate the Aggies in their last game played in the Big 12 Conference. They move to the Southeastern Conference in July.
The Frogs received stellar performances from starting pitchers Stefan Crichton and Brandon Finnegan to stay alive. Crichton improved to 9-2 after pitching his first complete game against the host Aggies. Crichton held top-seeded A&M to six hits and struck out four.
In the nightcap, Finnegan, a freshman from Fort Worth Southwest High School, pitched perhaps the best game of his young career, going a career-high 7 1/3 innings while striking out seven and holding Ole Miss to six hits. It came two days after Finnegan took the loss in the Frogs' regional opener Friday against the Rebels. Finnegan faced two batters out of the bullpen in that game and allowed a walk and a hit before exiting Friday.
"It was an exciting finish to a really good day for TCU," TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said. "We got two phenomenal pitching performances from Stef and Brandon. I can't say enough about Brandon, especially after taking the loss on Friday and not pitching the way he's capable of out of the bullpen. To give us what he gave us today was phenomenal. I wish the day had won us something, but it hasn't. It feels good, but we have to forget about it real fast."
TCU pitching finally took the spotlight away from the Frogs' offense, which exploded for 28 runs against Dayton on Saturday and then scored 10 more to eliminate Texas A&M.
Against Ole Miss (37-25), the Frogs scored just enough behind Finnegan's arm.
Derek Odell turned on a fastball for a two-run homer to right field to give the Frogs a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning. It was Odell's second homer of the day. He hit a solo shot to put the Frogs up 3-2 in the third inning against the Aggies.
TCU made it 3-1 in the fifth when Brance Rivera led off with a double, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt from Keaton Jones and scored on Kyle Von Tungeln's sac fly. TCU added a run each in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings on RBIs from Josh Gonzales, Von Tungeln and Kevin Cron.
Ole Miss had the bases loaded with two outs in the fifth when Cron made a circus catch over a camera well railing in foul territory to end the inning. In the sixth, the Rebels scored a run to pull to within 4-2, but Finnegan clamped down.
"I'm not going to quit on my baseball team because I know they're not going to quit on me," Finnegan said. "I was pretty confident after that first inning."
Justin Scharf pitched the final 1 2/3 innings to earn the save. Finnegan improved to 4-4 with the victory. Four of the Frogs' five RBIs and five of their eight hits came from freshmen as the crop of young bats continued to sizzle in the tournament.
"It just feeds from one guy to the next," Schlossnagle said. "But the past never equals the future. We're just going to try to grind it out one more day for all the marbles in this regional."
The winner advances to play the Los Angeles Regional winner, most likely top-seeded UCLA.