TCU infielders Kevin Cron and Derek Odell were sitting about 10 feet apart in the Horned Frogs’ dugout.
Both were gazing out onto the field at Lupton Stadium on Saturday evening, where TCU had just lost a nearly four-hour game to Oklahoma 7-5 in 11 innings.
The Frogs’ 13-game win streak had been snapped. The magic TCU showed during a five-run rally in the bottom of the ninth to force extra innings had vanished.
It was a cold blow of reality after nearly four weeks without a loss. And it’s a reminder that TCU (35-14, 14-6 Big 12) still has plenty at stake as it winds down the regular season.
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Sunday’s series finale looms large for the 19th-ranked Frogs, who could snatch up an NCAA regional hosting bid with another weekend series win and perhaps move up a few spots to earn their first national seed. Oklahoma State (37-13, 15-5) has won eight consecutive games and has a one-game lead on TCU in the Big 12 standings.
Freshman left-hander Tyler Alexander (6-3) will face Oklahoma lefty Adam Choplick (3-3) at 1 p.m. Sunday.
“That was a long game mentally and physically,” said Cron, who was 0 for 5 on Saturday. “Your team battles as best it can and you give everything you’ve got and you come up short on a couple wacky plays, really. It takes a toll, and you don’t like to go in and take your jersey off until you’ve flushed it. I’m proud of our team, but we have to show we can bounce back from this.”
TCU, which had squandered multiple scoring opportunities in the first four innings, had been held to two hits and was trailing 5-0 entering the bottom of the ninth before rallying to tie the game with five hits, including Odell’s bases-clearing triple to right, to make it 5-4. Boomer White’s soft single to center scored Odell to tie the game at 5-5.
“It just shows how gritty we are,” Odell said. “A bunch of guys off the bench, in the ninth inning, especially after sitting in here for nine innings. It just shows how locked in they were and how prepared they were.”
In the 10th, TCU had a prime chance to complete the comeback after Connor Castellano led off with a single and Keaton Jones’ doubled to give the Frogs runners on second and third with one out. Dylan Delso was intentionally walked to set up the double play, and Cody Jones, TCU’s fastest player, hit into an inning-ending double play to second base.
The Sooners (27-24, 7-13) scored twice in the 11th with two outs after TCU left fielder White threw out Kolbey Carpenter trying to score on Taylor Alspaugh’s single. A wild pitch from Riley Ferrell (1-1) allowed Craig Akin to score to give OU a 6-5 lead. A potential inning-ending double play was misplayed by Odell at third which, allowed Alspaugh to score for a 7-5 Sooners lead.
Sheldon Neuse pitched the final 2 2/3 innings to earn his first win. OU starter Jake Elliott held TCU scoreless on two hits through five innings. But the Frogs had plenty of chances to score early.
Cody Jones was at third base in the first with two outs, but Cron grounded out to end the inning. In the second, Crain led off with a walk and was at second on a passed ball with no outs but was called out at second after leaving early on a flyout.
In the third, Cody Jones was thrown out at home by Alspaugh from right field. And in the fourth, TCU had two on with one out when Fitzgerald stuck out swinging and Cron was caught trying to steal third.
“Those are the things I’m most upset about because we had a chance to give Preston Morrison a three-run lead early in the game, and we didn’t do that,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “[Sunday] is a big day. We have to win the series; we want to stay in the chase for a conference championship. These guys have done a good job of keeping their focus day to day during the win streak. Now they’ve got to keep their focus after it’s over with.”