TCU and North Carolina State are trying to get to the College World Series. The atmosphere Saturday night at Lupton Stadium felt like they were already there.
Chance Shepard hit a two-run homer with two outs in the top of the ninth inning to give the Wolfpack a 5-4 victory over the Horned Frogs in the Fort Worth Regional. It followed a walk to second baseman Ryne Willard, and it gave North Carolina State a victory in the winner’s bracket.
Garrett Crain homered, tripled and drove in a go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly as the Horned Frogs took a 4-3 lead into the ninth inning.
Riley Ferrell began the ninth trying to get his third career NCAA postseason save in front of 4,009 fans.
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Starting pitchers Preston Morrison and Brian Brown dueled into the seventh inning, racking up strikeout after strikeout before the Frogs finally chased Brown. Morrison matched a career-high with 10 strikeouts in eight innings.
It was an emotional game, with a physical collision and tag at home plate and a hard slide at second base in the fourth inning that had the coaches yelling at each other.
TCU rallied from a 3-1 deficit to tie the game in the sixth inning on Cody Jones’ RBI single, scoring Crain, who had tripled to lead off the inning. Jeremie Fagnan’s home run in the fourth had cut the N.C. State lead to 3-2.
The fourth inning was the talker. It began with a mistake on defense by TCU.
Second baseman Garrett Brown let a ground ball get past him, losing a chance at a double play that would have left the bases empty with two outs. And then Morrison made things tough on himself.
He had .227-hitting third baseman Joe Dunand down 0-2 after two failed bunt attempts, but lost him to a walk on nine pitches — loading the bases with no outs.
Ryne Willard hit a bouncing ball just inside the bag at third base for a two-run double and a 2-1 lead. Then a wild pitch scored Dunand for a 3-1 lead, still with no outs and a runner at third.
Derek Odell fielded a hard ground ball at third base and threw home for the first out, a collision at the plate between TCU’s 200-pound catcher, Evan Skoug, and Willard, a 180-pound second baseman.
Skoug made a physical tag and held it, stepping over the runner toward the mound. Willard hopped up annoyed, and the home plate umpire stepped between him and Skoug. The players and coaches made moves toward the plate, emotions running high.
Morrison got out of the inning with a double play, but a hard slide at second base, perhaps in retaliation, prompted Schlossnagle and pitching coach Kirk Saarloos to exchange words with N.C. State coach Elliott Avent.
But TCU was out of the inning trailing only 3-1 and got to within 3-2 on Fagnan’s leadoff home run in the fourth. It looked like the Horned Frogs might have something going against Brown, but he settled down and retired the next six hitters until Crain led off the sixth with a triple.
Crain’s sacrifice fly in the seventh inning scored Dane Steinhagen, who led off the inning with a single.
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407
Game 5: TCU
vs. Stony Brook, 2:30 p.m.
Game 6: N.C. State
vs. Game 5 winner, 7 p.m.
Game 6 winner vs. Game 6 loser, 7 p.m.