Virginia scored a run in the bottom of the 15th inning late Tuesday to beat TCU 3-2 in a classic College World Series game.
Nate Irving led off the inning with a ground-rule double to left field and was replaced at second base by pinch runner Thomas Woodruff. After Irving moved over to third on a sacrifice bunt, he came home with the winning run on Daniel Pinero’s sac fly to center field.
The game ties the CWS record for most innings. The last time a CWS game went 15 innings was the 1970 championship. The 4-hour, 51-minute length is the fourth-longest CWS game.
TCU is forced into an elimination game against Mississippi at 7 p.m. Thursday. The Rebels (47-20) eliminated Texas Tech on Tuesday afternoon. The TCU/Ole Miss winner stays alive to play Virginia at 7 p.m. Friday. A Virginia win on Friday sends the Cavaliers into the best-of-three championship series, which begins on Monday. If Virginia loses Friday night, the same two teams play again on Saturday.
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Teams that have started 2-0 have won 30 of the last 33 CWS titles.
For the first time this postseason, TCU ran out of luck in the late innings. The Horned Frogs (48-17) had won four postseason games in their last at-bat.
Against Virginia in front of 24,285 at TD Ameritrade Park, it was the Cavs (51-14) who came up with the late-inning magic. Virginia won its CWS opener Sunday evening on a game-winning hit in the ninth inning.
The battle of the two remaining national seeds — No. 7 TCU and No. 3 Virginia — featured a matchup of two left-handed starters, and both delivered gems.
TCU’s Brandon Finnegan lasted eight innings before handing the game over to closer Riley Ferrell. Virginia’s Brandon Waddell lasted seven innings before Nick Howard and Whit Mayberry took over in the late innings.
Each team had chances to pull ahead in the late innings. TCU’s first four hitters combined to go 2 for 25. The Frogs managed just nine hits and two walks. Virginia didn’t fare much better. The Cavs had 11 hits and three walks. Both teams left nine runners on base.
With the game tied 2-2 in the bottom of the 10th, TCU center fielder Cody Jones made a diving catch on leadoff hitter Mike Papi’s drive to the left-center gap.
In the 12th, Dylan Fitzgerald led off with a walk but was thrown out trying to make it to third on Kyle Bacak’s single to center.
Virginia jumped to a 1-0 lead in the first inning after Brandon Cogswell led off with a double and scored on a throwing error from right fielder Dylan Fitzgerald on a sacrifice fly.
Fitzgerald’s throw to third was up the line and got past Derek Odell and Finnegan, who was backing up the play. Cogswell scored when Finnegan failed to pick up the throw in foul territory.
TCU came right back in the second inning to take a 2-1 lead. Garrett Crain, Jerrick Suiter and Fitzgerald started the inning with singles against Waddell.
Crain came home on Fitzgerald’s single to left. After Keaton Jones’ sacrifice bunt moved Suiter to third and Fitzgerald to second, Cody Jones reached on an error at short, which allowed Suiter to score.
Through the first eight innings, the heart of TCU’s order struggled against Waddell. The Nos. 2-4 hitters were a combined 1 for 14 with two pop-ups, two groundouts to the pitcher and two strikeouts. Odell, Boomer White and Kevin Cron didn’t reach base until Odell worked a two-out walk in the 10th inning. Cron finally got the trio’s first hit with one out in the 11th.
Both starting pitchers were in top form. Finnegan held Virginia to two runs (one earned) on nine hits and struck out five in eight innings.
“I thought Brandon [Finnegan], once he caught his rhythm was really good,” Schlossnagle said. “We missed some opportunities early [offensively]. We had some poor fundamentals early in the game on defense, and that cost us a run.”
In the eighth, Virginia had the go-ahead run at second when a grounder to short turned into a wild, inning-ending rundown. Keaton Jones’ throw to first was high, and Kenny Towns, who had rounded third, was caught between home and third and eventually was tagged out by first baseman Cron, who started the 3-2-5-1-3 putout.
Waddell held the Frogs to two runs (one earned) on six hits over seven innings. Howard replaced him in the eighth and retired the first eight Frogs he faced. In his four innings of relief work, only two batters reached base. He had six strikeouts and a walk and allowed one hit.
TCU hitters struck out 15 times, including five by Cody Jones and three by Fitzgerald. Cron set a CWS record by recording 23 putouts, surpassing the previous high of 20.
Schlossnagle said either left-hander Tyler Alexander or right-hander Jordan Kipper would start Thursday. Trey Teakell, who pitched the final 2 2/3 innings Tuesday, and Ferrell, who pitched four innings of scoreless relief, won’t be available Thursday, but could return if the Frogs make it to Friday.
“If [Alexander or Kipper] can go out there and give us a great game and get us to the next day and [we] have those guys [with] two days’ rest, they’ll be ready to go by the time we get to Friday.”