TCU rode its pitching staff into the College World Series and scored just enough throughout the postseason to stay alive.
But in the Horned Frogs’ second CWS appearance in history, the offensive struggles caught up with them and the deep pitching staff that leads the nation in ERA could only do so much.
TCU’s season came to an abrupt end Thursday night, as Mississippi hung on for a 6-4 victory in front of 25,783 at TD Ameritrade Park. It was the largest crowd so far of the 2014 CWS and the 10th-largest CWS crowd since the event moved to TD Ameritrade Park in 2011.
It was a nail-biting ride for the Frogs in the postseason. TCU (48-18) set a record with seven one-run postseason games. TCU won five of them, including one in 11 innings and one in 22 innings in the regional round.
But the Frogs’ late-inning magic ran out in Omaha. TCU lost to No. 3 national seed Virginia 3-2 in 15 innings late Tuesday to set up Thursday’s elimination game against the Rebels (48-20).
And TCU made it interesting late.
Trailing by a run in the eighth, the Frogs had the tying run at third base in Jerrick Suiter and the go-ahead run in Boomer White at second with two outs. But Keaton Jones’ slow bouncer to shortstop was fielded by the Rebels’ Errol Robinson, who threw Jones out cleanly to end the inning.
With one out in the inning, Dylan Fitzgerald struck out swinging with Suiter and White at second and first.
Sikes Orvis’ RBI double in the top of the ninth — a drive that barely hit the left-field foul line — gave Ole Miss a two-run cushion.
Mississippi advances to play Virginia (51-14) at 7 p.m. Friday. Virginia advances to the best-of-three championship series with a win. If Virginia loses, the same two teams play again Saturday for the right to advance to the championship series, which begins Monday.
“Even throughout our win streak, they’ve all been one-run games,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said, “and this one was two outs from being another one. It boils down to getting that extra hit. Some days we got it, other days we didn’t.”
The Rebels jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the third inning, a seemingly insurmountable deficit for TCU with the way its offense has been hitting in the postseason.
Ole Miss’ J.B. Woodman led off with a double and scored on Braxton Lee’s single up the middle. After Auston Bousfield was hit by a pitch, Will Allen’s two-run double to the right-center gap put the Rebels up 3-0.
In the fourth, TCU took advantage of four walks, including two with the bases loaded, to tie it at 3-3.
Boomer White got the scoring started with an RBI single through the left side to score Kevin Cron. Keaton Jones and Cody Jones followed with bases-loaded walks.
With the bases loaded, Derek Odell crushed a ball to deep right-center field but right fielder Woodman made the running catch on the warning track to end the inning.
Ole Miss reclaimed the lead in the top of the fifth. Jordan Kipper, who had replaced TCU starter Tyler Alexander with one out in the fourth, walked two batters before Orvis singled to right to give the Rebels a 4-3 lead.
In the bottom of the fifth, Cron homered to left field to tie it at 4-4. It was Cron’s sixth homer of the season and his second in the postseason. It’s only the second homer hit at TD Ameritrade Park in 2014.
TCU struggled to hit for power for much of the season with only 14 homers. But that wasn’t a problem when the Frogs were winning 30 of 33 games down the stretch and winning the school’s first Big 12 team title at the league tournament. They had enough timely hits to ride their stellar pitching. But in the CWS, it wasn’t enough.
“That’s kind of been our story the whole season,” Cron said. “We’d always wait for that big hit and it worked for us for a long time and we had a great pitching to back us up.
“Tonight the pitching was there; we just didn’t capitalize when they gave us opportunities quite like they did. When balls were left over the plate they hit them, and they did it with guys on base tonight.”
Neither Alexander nor Ole Miss starter Sam Smith factored in the decision. Both allowed three runs in 3 1/3 innings.
Relievers Kipper and Josh Laxer replaced the starters and kept it close.
The Rebels took a 5-4 lead in the seventh after Kipper hit the leadoff hitter and surrendered consecutive singles, the second of which scored Bousfield with the go-ahead run.
With no outs and runners on first and second, left-hander Travis Evans replaced Kipper to face the left-hitting Orvis.
Evans struck out Orvis and was replaced by right-hander Trey Teakell, who retired the next two hitters to strand runners at second and third and hold the deficit at 5-4.
Teakell threw 2 1/3 innings before Alex Young replaced him in the ninth inning after Orvis’ double gave the Rebels a 6-4 lead.