LOS ANGELES -- TCU has been here before.
The Horned Frogs are facing elimination today after UCLA erupted for five runs in the sixth inning Friday and took Game 1 of the NCAA Super Regional series 6-2.
Preston Morrison (9-1) is tasked with trying to force a Game 3 at 8:05 tonight at Jackie Robinson Stadium.
The Frogs (40-21) know all about elimination games. They won four of them last weekend at the College Station Regional.
Morrison, a freshman, has been TCU's most consistent pitcher. He started twice last weekend and pitched well despite two no-decisions. The Bruins will start right-handed sophomore Nick Vander Tuig (9-3, 4.53 ERA).
On Friday, “I thought we played well for eight of the nine innings, but obviouslya walk and two hit batters set the table for some timely hits on theirpart," TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said. "That was the difference in the ballgame.”
Brandon Finnegan, who also pitched well in his lone start last week, was rolling through five innings Friday night before the Bruins (46-14) made him pay for mistakes in the sixth inning.
Finnegan retired 10 consecutive batters and led 2-1 until he walked and hit a batter to start the sixth. Justin Scharf, who was so impressive out of the bullpen last weekend in the regional, came on with two on and no outs, and loaded the bases with a hit batter on his first pitch.
Trevor Brown's single up the middle scored a run to tie it at 2-2 and Pat Valaika's groundout gave the Bruins a 3-2 lead. Schard intentionally walked pinch hitter Brenton Allen, but Cody Regis' bases-clearing double to the gap in left-center blew the game open. Kaleb Merck took over for Scharf and forced two groundouts to end the inning.
Finnegan's trouble in the sixth "definitely wasn’t fatigue; he only threw 75 pitches," Schlossnagle said. "He wascruising and for whatever reason he lost command for a couple pitches.He flirts with that every now and then. But he kept us in the game.”
UCLA starter Adam Plutko pitched into the seventh inning before Josh Elander reached on an infield single to start the inning. David Berg held the Frogs hitless and struck out four in the final two innings.
Elander and Kyle Von Tungeln had solo home runs in the first and third innings to give the Frogs a 2-1 lead. In the fourth, the Frogs had runners on the corners with one out, but Plutko picked Brance Rivera off at first after a fake to third and Keaton Jones popped out to second to end the inning.
Finnegan struck out four and held the Bruins to three hits, all in the second inning, when the Bruins scored a run to tie it 1-1. UCLA finished with only six hits in the game, but they were able to convert three walks and two hit batters into runs.
“I believe in my team' Schlossnagle said. "UCLA has a great team and outstanding pitching,but we feel like our club is a grinder, blue-collar type team that plays well with our backs against the wall. We kind of feel like we’re right where we need to be.”
Elander, the Frogs' catcher, also took the defeat in stride and looked ahead to Game 2.
“We gave them free passes and you can’t do that against a team like UCLA," Elander said. "You have to look at it as an elimination game because if you lose, you’re done. We have our power arm in [Andrew] Mitchell left, we have our all-American freshman in Preston, so we’ve always adopted the cornered-dog mentality and we’re just going to have to bring that out again [Saturday]."