One win away.
TCU defeated Pepperdine 3-2 Saturday afternoon in the opener of the Fort Worth Super Regional, putting the Horned Frogs on the verge of the College World Series.
Horned Frogs ace Brandon Finnegan held the Waves to two runs on three hits in 6 1/3 innings two days after being selected as the No. 17 overall pick in the Major League Baseball draft.
Finnegan struck out seven as he improved to 9-3 and pushed TCU (46-15) to the brink of its second CWS appearance in five years in front of a standing-room-only crowd of 5,094, the eighth-largest in Lupton Stadium history and largest for a postseason game.
TCU right-hander Preston Morrison (9-3), the Big 12 pitcher of the year, starts against Pepperdine lefty Aaron Brown (12-1) in Game 2 at 5 p.m. Sunday. TCU will play as the visitor. A Frogs win sends them to Omaha for the second time and first since 2010.
Game 3, if necessary, is at 6 p.m. Monday. All games are televised on ESPNU.
“We’re confident in all of our pitchers, but certainly with Preston, with what he does and his presence and his ability to manage his emotions and just stick to what he does is very comforting,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said.
“I’m really excited about the way we held our composure throughout the course of the game. I’m not trying to be cliché. I’m really not. It’s one game. I know we’ll be ready to play tomorrow.”
Pepperdine (42-17) cut TCU’s 3-0 lead to 3-2 when Chris Fornaci’s two-run homer to left field knocked Finnegan (9-3) out of the game in the seventh. Trey Teakell replaced Finnegan and retired the next two batters to end the inning.
The Waves threatened again in the eighth. Pepperdine put the first two hitters on with singles and moved them to second and third with a sacrifice bunt. That brought in TCU closer Riley Ferrell to face Brad Anderson with one out and the tying run 90 feet away.
Ferrell struck out Anderson with an 83 mph breaking ball and then forced a groundout to second to end the inning. In the ninth, Ferrell struck out the side to earn his TCU-record 15th save. He struck out four of the five batters to close the game.
“Teakell did his job. He came in and threw four pitches and got two outs,” Finnegan said. “He did what he’s supposed to, and Riley came in and did his job.”
Derek Odell’s two-out, two-run single to left in the fourth gave TCU a 2-0 lead. With two outs, Keaton Jones and Kyle Bacak singled before Cody Jones was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Odell’s liner to left on a 2-2 pitch scored Keaton Jones and Bacak, and Odell moved to second when the Pepperdine left fielder failed to make a clean pickup.
“That’s what I’ve been working on all week, keeping my front shoulder in and just driving the ball to the opposite field,” said Odell, who had two of TCU’s 11 hits. “He tried to sneak a fastball by me, and I just stayed on it.”
TCU added a run in the fifth to make it 3-0 when Kevin Cron scored on Dylan Fitzgerald’s groundout to second. Cron led off with a walk and moved to third on Garrett Crain’s single to right. Keaton Jones walked to put two on, but Fitzgerald was picked off at second to end the inning when he fell trying to return to the bag after a pitch.
TCU let scoring opportunities pass by throughout the game. In the second inning, two runners were thrown out at third base. Cron, who had led off with a single, was thrown out trying to make it to third on Crain’s double down the left-field line.
Later, Crain was thrown out trying to steal third on a wild pitch that never got more than a few feet from the catcher. Pepperdine’s Aaron Barnett threw Crain out easily for the second out. With the bases empty and two outs, Jerrick Suiter promptly singled to center followed by an infield hit by Fitzgerald, but Keaton Jones flew out to center to end the inning.
In the third, the Frogs loaded the bases with one out after two singles and a walk, but Cron popped out softly to short on the first pitch he saw, and Crain lined out to right to end the inning.
Pepperdine starter Corey Miller (9-5) allowed three runs on 10 hits, the most he’s allowed this season. Miller walked four and struck out two before Ivan Dilda replaced him with an out and a runner on in the sixth. Dilda forced Odell into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.
“They were able to capitalize on a couple hits and we weren’t,” Pepperdine coach Steve Rodriguez said. “We had a chance to win the game at the end and just couldn’t make contact. Ferrell came in and did a hell of a job.”