They call him “Big Game Howie.”
Well, Brian Howard faces a big one Tuesday. It’s up to him to keep TCU’s season alive at the College World Series.
“Cannot wait. Should be a blast. That’s why you play the games,” he said after practice Monday.
The senior right-hander from St. Louis, the first back-to-back 10-game winner in school history, gets the start for the Horned Frogs in an elimination game against Texas A&M. The winner plays another elimination game Thursday night. The loser will head home without a win in Omaha.
Howard (11-2) has won five consecutive NCAA tournament starts, earning the nickname from coach Jim Schlossnagle. The streak includes Game 3 of a Super Regional at Texas A&M last season. He pitched seven innings on June 12, 2016, in College Station, allowing only an unearned run and striking out eight.
That was the last elimination game he pitched for TCU.
“I know what’s at stake,” he said. “I’ve prepared for this my whole career, this kind of stuff. You just want to go out there and fall back on everything you’ve done to this point to get here — go out and execute pitches, don’t make too much of the moment. If I make good pitches, I feel good about what will happen.”
Tuesday will be Howard’s third appearance at the College World Series. He pitched an inning in relief in 2015 and won a start against Coastal Carolina in 2016. In the last two seasons, his NCAA postseason ERA is 1.96.
The A&M squad Howard will face is different than the version he saw last season. The first six hitters in that lineup are gone. The Aggies started three freshmen in their College World Series opener on Sunday against Louisville. Freshman second baseman Braden Shewmake leads the team in hitting, home runs and runs batted in.
“They’re different than last year and they’re different than they were in Houston at the beginning of the year,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “And so are we. I think everybody’s grown since then. They have some really good young players. Shewmake has had a great season all the way through. They have some other guys that have really come on.”
TCU has won six of the last eight meetings against A&M, starting with a 2012 regional victory in College Station. The stretch includes Super Regional victories in Fort Worth two years ago and College Station last year.
In March at the Shriners College Classic in Houston, TCU scored five times in the ninth inning to tie before defeating the Aggies 11-10 in 15 innings. They played 16 innings in Game 3 of the 2015 Super Regional.
“Of course we can’t go one postseason without playing Texas A&M,” shortstop Ryan Merrill said. “Might as well do it in the College World Series.”
No. 6 TCU vs. Texas A&M
1 Tuesday (ESPN)
College World Series, Omaha, Neb.