Pitching, timely hitting leave TCU short

06/19/2014 11:23 PM

06/20/2014 11:08 AM

In the end, a normal baseball game broke out here Thursday night.

Runs and hits, and all those other things that were a part of college baseball before they started making the hitters bat with rolled-up copies of the Omaha World-Herald.

But for the TCU Horned Frogs, their survival in this College World Series still came down to old-fashioned pitching and timely hitting.

They had their chances. When Ole Miss, however, put together a hit batsman and back-to-back singles in the seventh inning, the Rebels were able to outlast the Frogs 6-4 and send TCU home.

It’s been an uncommon College World Series, a cataclysmic convergence of poor technology and Mother Nature. And, oh, yes — the ballpark.

Gleaming, but much-maligned TD Ameritrade Park, opened in 2011, has been disparaged by media and TV watchers alike. And for what?

Mostly for not being venerable, once-nearby Rosenblatt Stadium, the home of the College World Series for 60 years.

But the new park’s other curse is a more tangible and blustery one. Its open, center-field end invites the teeth of what is said to be Omaha’s prevailing wind.

As this Series went on, and fly ball after fly ball began to die in the outfield, pundits began to pick up the story — the wind, the new park, the homer-killing bats.

What’s wrong with college baseball, the radio talk shows asked?

But that can’t be the Frogs’ excuse for Thursday night. For one thing, it wasn’t half as blustery as it was through the tournament’s first five days. Evidence of that came in the fifth inning, when TCU’s Kevin Cron was able to muscle a fastball into the left-center field seats for the Series’ second home run.

Also, the elimination game was the third for both Ole Miss and TCU, which meant both teams had to dig deeper into their weekend rotations.

The hits followed. The Rebels finished with 11 of them. After Cron’s homer, on the other hand, the Frogs had none.

As they head home, therefore, the Frogs are going to have a hard time figuring out how this — seemingly their best chance at the NCAA crown — got away. In the new college baseball matrix, TCU seemed to have all the right stuff.

But on a night when survival was the mission, freshman starter Tyler Alexander couldn’t get out of the fourth inning. And though the Frogs tied up the game 3-3, they left the bases loaded.

Coach Jim Schlossnagle dipped deep into his bullpen. When opportunity presented itself, though, Ole Miss’ Nos. 3-4 hitters, Austin Anderson and Will Allen, didn’t let it slip away. The two combined to produce the go-ahead run in the seventh inning and then repeated the performance for an insurance run in the top of the ninth.

Except for two walks, meanwhile, TCU couldn’t produce a base runner in its last 15 outs.

In hindsight, it would be easy to blame the Frogs’ failure Thursday on a hangover from Tuesday’s marathon 15-inning loss to Virginia.

But even with that heart-wrenching, five-hour defeat, the Frogs had their chances Thursday.

There were hits, runs and almost welcoming breezes. For maybe the first time in this College World Series, it looked as if a real baseball game had finally broken out.

In the end, old-fashioned pitching and timely hitting — those two staples of winning baseball, whether it’s played in old stadiums or new — failed the Horned Frogs.

About Gil LeBreton

Gil LeBreton

@gilebreton

Whether it's pondering Moose McNuggets at the McDonald's in Norway or chasing Lance Armstrong up some mountaintop in France, Gil LeBreton has been entertaining Star-Telegram readers for nearly 30 years. He's covered 21 Super Bowls, 14 Olympic Games (summer and winter), saw Muhammad Ali box, Paul Newman drive a race car and Prince Albert try to steer a bobsled.

Gil also once briefly held the WBC Junior Welterweight title belt -- he had to, because the guy he was interviewing, champ Bruce Curry, had to suddenly step into the men's room.

Email Gil at gilebreton@star-telegram.com

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