TCU and Sam Houston State played one for the ages Saturday night. When it was over — at 2:25 a.m. Sunday morning — after 22 innings and nearly seven hours, the Horned Frogs had escaped with a 3-2 win.
TCU (44-15) advanced to the Fort Worth Regional championship game to play the winner between SHSU and Siena at 7 p.m. Sunday at Lupton Stadium. That elimination game starts at 2:30 p.m., about 12 hours exactly after the Bearkats lost to the Frogs.
TCU is one win from advancing to the NCAA Super Regionals after Boomer White’s two-out single to left scored Keaton Jones from second base to give the Frogs a 3-2 lead in the top of the 22nd inning.
Frogs’ closer Riley Ferrell came in for the bottom of the inning to close it out, but not before Sam Houston State added a little more drama with the tying run at second base.
Ferrell walked the lead-off hitter Colt Atwood, who moved to second on a bunt. Ferrell struck out Anthony Azar before getting Ryan O’Hearn to pop out to shortstop Keaton Jones for the final out.
“I don’t even know what to say about that,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “It’s a shame someone had to lose that game. I’m delirious right now. We’ll take it and we’ll get ready to play later today.”
A couple thousand fans remained from the sold out crowd of 4,207 until the end, both jubilant (Frogs’ fans) and despondent (Kats’ fans) and all of them exhausted.
The 22-inning, 6-hour, 54-minute game is the second-longest NCAA postseason game in history and third longest overall. Texas’ 3-2 win against Boston College in the 2009 postseason went 25 innings.
It’s the longest game in TCU history, eclipsing a 17-inning game in 1972. The Frogs beat Dallas Baptist in 15 innings earlier this season.
The game had its share of controversy and eye-popping drama. Twice Sam Houston State was called for interference on slides into second base on double play attempts.
The second instance occurred in the 21st inning when it appeared the Bearkats had the game won.
With the bases loaded and one out, Travis Lee sent a slow grounder to Keaton Jones, who relayed to second baseman Garrett Crain in hopes of turning an inning-ending double play. But Lee’s slow roller took forever, meaning the Crain’s relay to first never had a chance.
However, Luke Plucheck, who was racing to second, was called for base-running interference after sliding hard into Crain, whose attempted relay to first ended up in the dirt. Sam Houston State players stormed out of the dugout thinking the game had been won.
Umpire Jeff Head made the interference call immediately, which drew a strong rebuke from Plucheck, who slammed his helmet down in disgust and was ejected. SHSU coach David Pierce argued the call, too, and he was ejected.
“[The umpire] said he was out [of line of the bag] on both of them,” said Pierce, who was asked whether he disputed the interpretation of the rule. “I don’t know. I know two teams fought really hard. They busted their tails. The emotions were there. It was really tough.”
It was the second interference call against the Bearkats (42-18) in the game. In the first inning, Carter Burgess was ruled out for interference at second base on a double-play attempt, which ended the inning and prevented two extra runs from scoring on Crain’s errant throw to first.
TCU’s defense came through in the clutch on multiple occasions to keep the game going. In the 13th inning, Azar tried to score from first on O’Hearn’s double off the center field wall but was gunned down by a perfect relay from outfielder Cody Jones to Keaton Jones to catcher Kyle Bacak, who tagged Azar just before his foot touched home.
Keaton Jones collected a TCU record 11 assists in the game.
The Kats were threatening in the 20th with Lee at second base after an infield single and stolen base when White made a diving catch in shallow left field for the second out. Lee later moved to third on a wild pitch before Brian Trieglaff took over for Brian Howard on the mound and struck out O’Hearn swinging to end the inning.
“[Howard] did a great job and then Trieglaff was phenomenal,” Schlossnagle said of his little-used pitchers out of the bullpen. The two combined to allow three hits in 5 1/3 innings.
TCU’s bullpen combined to throw 14 2/3 scoreless innings, including 6 1/3 from Trey Teakell and four innings from Howard, who hadn’t pitched since May 9. Trieglaff (2-0) earned the win after pitching 1 1/3.
It was second long night for the top-seeded Horned Frogs. TCU had to go to 11 innings to beat Siena 2-1 in its Friday regional opener.
The No. 2 seed Dallas Baptist was eliminated after losing to Siena 9-8 in a 10 inning game Saturday afternoon. That 3 hour, 53 minute game forced a late start for the TCU-SHSU game, which didn’t start until 7:35 pm, 35 minutes later than scheduled.
In the bottom of the ninth, an errant throw from Teakell on a sac-bunt gave Sam Houston State the winning run at third base with two outs. Teakell’s throw was ruled dead after the ball got stuck below a tarp in foul territory down the first-base line, which kept the lead runner from scoring the game-winning run. Teakell forced a groundout to third to end the inning.
TCU had runners on the second and third with one out in the top of the 11th but Ryan Brinley, the Kats’ fourth pitcher of the night, retired pinch-hitter Connor Castellano with a flyout and struck out Dylan Fitzgerald to strand the runners.
TCU took a 2-1 lead in the sixth inning after Kyle Bacak led off with a walk and moved to second on Cody Jones’ sacrifice bunt.
With two outs, Boomer White’s slow roller over the mound was picked up by the shortstop, whose throw to first sailed high. Bacak was able to come home with the go-ahead run from second on the error. White moved to second on the error and then stole third on the pitcher Simms, who failed to pay attention.
White was stranded at third, however, when Simms struck out Kevin Cron for the third time, getting him missing with a nasty breaking ball.
In the bottom of the eighth, a TCU defensive miscue helped Sam Houston State tie it. Plucheck led-off with a double when his popup landed in shallow right field after second baseman Garrett Crain lost the flight of the ball. Plucheck moved to third on a sacrifice bunt for the top of Sam Houston State’s order.
Alex Young replaced starting pitcher Preston Morrison to face left-handed hitting Colt Atwood. Young had Atwood in an 0-2 hole but lost his a grip on a breaking ball and hit him to put runners on the corners. A hard shot to third baseman Derek Odell was stopped but bobbled and Odell was forced to throw to second for the force out, allowing the tying run to score.
Morrison was masterful for much of the night. He held the Kats to two runs (one earned) on three hits in 7 1/3 innings. .
TCU, playing as the visitor, took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. Cody Jones led off with a double down the first-base line and moved to third on Derek Odell’s groundout and scored on Boomer White’s groundout to second.
Crain singled to lead off the second and stole second but Sam Houston State starter Jason Simms stuck out Jerrick Suiter and Keaton Jones and forced Dylan Fitzgerald to fly out.
Simms struck out six in the first five innings and retired 10 consecutive batters between the second and fifth innings. He tied a career high with seven strikeouts in seven innings. Simms allowed two runs (one earned) on five hits. Left-hander Andrew Godail took over in the eighth inning.
The Bearkats came right back to tie it at 1-1 in the bottom of the first and a rare call prevented TCU from falling behind 3-1.
After a single and walk put two runners on with one out, center fielder Cody Jones slipped and fell on a routine shallow pop up. The ball dropped in for a single and the bases were loaded when nobody was covering second base for a force out.
Carter Burgess’ fly to left field appeared to be a shallow out that wouldn’t score a run, but left fielder White, who was coming in to make the catch, was bumped by Cody Jones at the last second and the ball was dropped after hitting Jones’ glove. That allowed a run to score.
Morrison then induced a potential inning-ending grounder to short for a double play. Second baseman Crain’s relay throw to first sailed high, which would have allowed Sam Houston State to score two more runs and take a 3-1 lead. But the umpire called interference on Burgess for sliding slightly offline to the left of second base.
“Tonight was just one of those nights,” Schlossnagle said. “I’m embarrassed with how we played in the outfield but at the same time it’s like it’s freakin’ Halloween.
“Some of you who’ve seen us play ... we don’t miscommunicate on balls in the outfield. That never happens. We play clean baseball. But for whatever reason ... it was just one of those nights and we just had to overcome it.”