Elliott Barzilli began the week with an eye swollen shut from a bad-hop bounce that hit him in the face.
It looks like he can see OK now.
The junior third baseman punched a single to right field that drove in the go-ahead runs for TCU in a 4-3 victory against Gonzaga in a winner’s bracket game Saturday night at the Fort Worth Regional.
“That’s all we needed. We didn’t need a home run or anything,” Barzilli said. “We just needed a way to at least tie the game and stay alive.”
Barzilli’s hit with the bases loaded and two out put the Horned Frogs (44-15) in a 6:30 p.m. Sunday game, where they will meet the winner of the Gonzaga-Arizona State elimination game. Those teams will play at 2 p.m. Sunday.
I was ready to go no matter what. I wouldn’t want to miss out on a playoff and a chance to do something special. I was ready.
TCU third baseman Elliott Barzilli
TCU needs only to win Sunday or Monday to win the regional championship and advance to a Super Regional series for a third consecutive year.
Barzilli, who came out of the game in the Big 12 championship last Sunday because of the injury, said it would not prevent him from playing.
“I was ready to go no matter what,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to miss out on a playoff and a chance to do something special. I was ready.”
Barzilli has done this before. Last season, he won the Fort Worth Regional with a base hit in the 10th inning that completed an epic rally against North
Carolina State. It was his only hit and RBI of the postseason in 2015.
This year, he has three hits and two runs batted in. Playing full time this year — he has started every game at third base — the junior from Los Angeles is tied for the team lead in hits (82) and leads in slugging (.577).
TCU can win its third consecutive Fort Worth Regional with a victory Sunday or Monday. The Horned Frogs are 16-3 in regional games at Lupton Stadium.
“My confidence level with him is always outstanding,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “Especially when he uses the whole field. He’s really good at hitting the ball the other way when he’s committed to that. That was really big in that at-bat, because it was an off-speed pitch. He stayed on the ball, did just what we needed.”
TCU trailed 3-2 after Jeffrey Bohling’s three-run homer for Gonzaga in the sixth inning, just the fifth hit against Jared Janczak. It ended a string of 20 consecutive scoreless innings by TCU pitching.
TCU led 1-0 in the second inning on Dane Steinhagen’s RBI groundout.
Cam Warner’s single in the third inning scored Wade and gave TCU a 2-0 lead.
50Runs batted in for Dane Steinhagen with his second-inning RBI ground ball. That gave TCU two 50-RBI producers for the first time since 2010. Luken Baker has 54.
Gonzaga starter Eli Morgan, who gave up nine runs in 3 1/3 innings innings in a start against TCU at Lupton Stadium in March, struck out eight in the first five innings. The sophomore right-hander pitched into the eighth with the help of three double plays.
With one out in the eighth inning against Morgan, Wade and Warner singled. Morgan recovered with a fly ball from Evan Skoug, and Gonzaga coach Mark Machtolf visited the mound.
He kept Morgan in to face Luken Baker, and on a 1-0 pitch, Baker’s checked swing resulted in an infield hit to load the bases. Barzilli followed and hit his single.
“He made good pitches,” Machtolf said. “They had the right guys up. We made a decision that we wanted Eli to face Baker, and he did a good job. They got a fortunate break. Didn’t want to bring my closer in with the bases loaded. Plus Eli’s maybe the best bet on our team. We wanted him to have the ball in that situation.”
Ryan Burnett (1-1) won in relief for TCU with 1 1/3 innings, and Durbin Feltman got his seventh save by pitching the eighth and ninth.
Janczak, Burnett (6), Feltman (8) and Skoug. Morgan, Mills (8) and Harris. W—Burnett (2-1). Sv—Feltman (7). L—Morgan (10-3). 2B—Gonzaga: Jones (27); TCU: Barzilli (17). 3B—TCU: Wade (1). HR—Gonzaga: Bohling (9).
Records—TCU: 44-15; Gonzaga: 36-20.
Fort Worth Regional
Today at Lupton Stadium
Gonzaga vs. Arizona State, 2 p.m., ESPN3
First game winner vs. TCU, 6:30 p.m., ESPN3