TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle called it one of the most amazing games played at Lupton Stadium. He’s not going to get much argument.
Two tough-minded lineups, superior pitching and a heroic moment in the eighth inning left fans of the game wanting little more. But it’s the Horned Frogs who claimed Game 1 and a 1-0 lead in the series.
Here is a look at some impressions from the game on the day after the Horned Frogs’ 3-2 victory against Missouri State in the Super Regional opener:
1. The memorable moment came from Evan Skoug. But freshman designated hitter Zach Humphreys deserves credit for being on base to make it a game-winner. Humphreys, playing in only his 27th game, drew his 14th walk of the season to set up the at-bat for Skoug. That’s the reason Humphreys is playing — his .374 on-base percentage is a strong follow-up behind leadoff hitter Austen Wade. “Those two guys, they don’t panic in the middle of an at-bat,” coach Jim Schlossnagle said in a press conference Friday. “The pitcher may get them out, but it’s going to take a while. Over the course of a game, especially in this heat, that can do some things.”
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2. Setup reliever Sean Wymer entered in the seventh inning with TCU trailing 2-1, and that was unusual. Wymer is rarely used if the Horned Frogs are behind. “I just felt like we needed to keep it close to have a chance,” Schlossnagle said. With a runner at first, Wymer retired the first batter he faced with a fly ball and got out of the inning when Skoug threw out Logan Geha on a steal attempt. In the eighth, he got two quick outs before an 11-pitch walk to Jeremy Eierman was followed by a called strikeout against Blake Graham.
3. The Horned Frogs have committed eight errors in four NCAA tournament games. They committed two errors on Saturday, Connor Wanhanen’s high flip to Jared Janczak covering first base in the fourth inning and Wymer’s errant pickoff attempt in the eighth inning. In the fifth inning, Ryan Merrill’s wide throw on a fielder’s choice to third left Elliott Barzilli with little chance to tag the baserunner Logan Geha. It wasn’t an error, but the unmade play made Janczak work for an extra out and gave the Bears a tactical advantage. Instead of having a runner on third with two out, Missouri State took advantage of the corners/no out situation with a bunt single to score the run.
4. When Missouri State’s Jeremy Eierman flung his bat following an 11-pitch walk in which he fouled off five consecutive pitches from Sean Wymer, it may have done the Horned Frogs a favor. Evan Skoug said it gave a subdued Lupton Stadium crowd something to get excited about. “I think that was fun for them, getting on him a little bit, getting after him in a respectable way,” he said. “I mean, they weren’t talking bad about him, but they were booing him, and that’s fine. I think it got the crowd back into it because when Sean punched out that lefty to finish the inning, we were all really excited. Kinda put some life back into us, put some life back into the crowd, and we just got fired up.”
5. TCU is ahead 1-0 in the Super Regional series and is tantalizingly close to a fourth consecutive Omaha trip. But nothing has been won yet, Schlossnagle reminded. He described a philosophy for staying grounded after Saturday’s emotion-filled game: “Everybody knows it’s not just a ballgame, but it is just a ballgame to these guys. We have phenomenal respect for our opponent and we have an even greater respect for the game itself. The game will penalize you if you start getting ahead of yourself. It’ll reward you if you just play it.”