Evan Skoug and Brian Howard did it again.
So did TCU.
In likely their last game at Lupton Stadium together, the junior catcher and senior pitcher powered an 8-1 victory against Missouri State to sweep a Super Regional series on Sunday and send TCU to its fourth consecutive College World Series.
Skoug hit a two-run home run for the second consecutive game, Howard won his fifth consecutive postseason start, and TCU became the 13th team to make four or more consecutive CWS appearances and the 10th school. Texas has done it three times and Miami twice. The others are Oklahoma State, Arizona State, Northern Colorado, Stanford, USC, Oklahoma and North Carolina.
“Before the game, he came up to me and we both kind of knew that if we won today, that could be our last time at Lupton here together,” Howard said. “He just said, ‘Let’s just have as much fun as we possibly can.’
Skoug, expected to be taken high in the major league draft on Monday, hit the go-ahead home run in the eighth inning of Game 1 on Saturday. He hit a two-run homer for a 4-1 lead in the third inning of Game 2, his 20th of the season, fourth in five NCAA tournament games and 16th in 33 games overall.
It tied him for fourth all-time in home runs at TCU, joining Ryan Dunn’s 36 from 1995 to 1997.
Howard (11-3) struck out a postseason career-high 11 in 7 1/3 innings. With his last punchout, of Jeremy Eierman, Howard reacted with a glare and shout on the mound.
“The thing about Brian is you know that the bigger the game, the more ready he’s going to be,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “I love all of our pitchers. But when it’s on the line, when you have a chance to win a championship or hold off elimination, you want Big Game Howie out there.”
Schlossnagle allowed the right-hander from St. Louis to exit to an ovation with one out in the eighth inning and a 5-1 lead. Sean Wymer entered and got the final two outs of the inning.
Elliott Barzilli’s three-run homer in the ninth inning, his first in postseason for TCU, accounted for the final score.
For Howard, it was a fourth consecutive start and win in a postseason-series clinching game. He won the 2016 regional and Super Regional championship games and the 2017 regional and Super Regional championship games.
It was Howard’s fifth consecutive postseason start and win, including a 2016 College World Series start. In those five starts, he has given up one run four times and two runs once. And in one of those outings, at Texas A&M last season, the run was unearned.
“We were talking about Skoug being a legend here, and he is,” Schlossnagle said. “But Brian Howard is right there with him. He’ll go down as one of the greatest big-game pitchers in the history of this program.”
Howard finished 13-1 in 19 starts at Lupton Stadium, including 3-0 in postseason starts.
“This place has meant so much to me over the last four years,” he said. “I mean, everything — from the coaches, to the facility guys, to everyone involved — it’s just been the best four years of my life. And this stadium has been a huge part of it. And this fan group. Everyone here in this town has accepted me. It just means a lot to go out like this.”
Skoug added a bases-loaded walk in the sixth inning, giving him five RBIs in the series and 12 in TCU’s five postseason games.
TCU is 5-0 in a postseason for the first time, sweeping the Fort Worth Regional and Super Regional. It was TCU’s first Super Regional sweep.
The Horned Frogs have won nine consecutive NCAA postseason games at home and are 26-5 overall at Lupton in postseason.
TCU led 1-0 in the first inning on Cam Warner’s RBI single.
Hunter Steinmetz led off the Missouri State first with a home run to right on Howard’s second pitch.
Barzilli’s double to left put TCU ahead 2-1 in the second.
In the third inning, Zach Humphreys reached with a bunt single. Skoug homered on an 0-1 pitch, near the same spot he put the ball in Game 1 on Saturday.
Carlos Mendez: 817-390-7760, @calexmendez
Still, Fromson (6), Knutson (9) and Millas; Howard, Wymer (8) and Skoug. W—Howard (11-3). L—Still (8-3). 2B—TCU: Warner (11), Barzilli (14). HR—TCU: Skoug (20), Barzilli (6); MSU: Steinmetz (7). HBP—By Howard (Duffy). SH—TCU: Wanhanen. SF—TCU: . SB—MSU: Eierman (2). LOB—.TCU 11, MSU 8. E—MSU: Burger. T—3:21. A—5,277. RECORDS—TCU 47-16; Missouri St. 43-20.
College World Series
TCU vs. Florida/Wake Forest, Saturday or Sunday, TBA