TCU shortstop Adam Oviedo just wanted to put the ball in play when he stepped to the plate with the game-winning run on third and no outs.
His reasoning was simple.
“In the game of baseball, if you just put the ball in play, you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Oviedo said. “I think tonight was a great example of that.”
Yes, Friday night showed the drama that college baseball produces.
Oviedo skied a fly ball to shallow left field, and the ball landed — as teammate Alex Isola put it — in the ‘Bermuda Triangle’ of Lupton Stadium.
TCU’s Austin Henry sprinted home once the ball hit the outfield turf, and the Frogs rallied for an improbable 3-2 walk-off victory proving that “Lupton Magic” is alive and well for the 2019 season.
“My first walkoff,” Oviedo said. “Actually my second but first career here as a Horned Frog. That felt awesome. Man, that’s stuff you dream of. That’s why you come to TCU. You want to live that moment.”
The walk-off became just the end of a dramatic game that featured a pitching duel and arguably the best catch of college baseball’s season.
Texas had a 2-0 lead going into the ninth, courtesy of eight shutout innings by starter Bryce Elder.
Elder attempted to go for his first career complete game, but hit Isola with a pitch to start the ninth. The Longhorns then turned to Kamron Fields to close it out.
Fields walked TCU’s Jake Guenther. Brad Czerniejewski pinch-ran for Guenther, and Isola and Czerniejewski each advanced on a wild pitch by Fields.
Another wild pitch by Fields brought in Isola, and Czerniejewski advanced to third. Fields then walked Henry, putting the winning run on base with no outs.
Center fielder Johnny Rizer brought in the game-tying run (Czerniejewski) with a single through the right side, and Henry advanced to third. Rizer advanced to second on Texas’ throw to third.
With Oviedo at the plate, the Longhorns went with a five-man infield and two outfielders. That setup didn’t matter on Oviedo’s shallow fly ball that dropped out of reach of the Longhorns’ charging outfielder.
“I didn’t realize how deep he (Texas’ outfielder) was and then Austin went back to tag,” Isola said. “He kept running, and I’m like, ‘Ooh, we’re going to have a shot.’ Then just perfect, Bermuda Triangle out there, just found a way.”
TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle pointed to Henry’s at-bat as being the difference in the inning.
“Henry’s at-bat was the at-bat,” Schlossnagle said. “To look horrible on the first breaking ball and then to get back into the at-bat, that was the at-bat of the game in my mind.”
The play of the game, meanwhile, went to Rizer in the fourth inning.
Rizer tracked down a hard-hit line drive destined for the brush beyond the right-center field fence, propelling himself off the wall and snagging a would-be home run by Texas’ Zach Zubia.
“I wasn’t really expecting to rob a ball tonight, but it happened,” Rizer said. “Lodolo was lights out and Zubia smacks one. I started sprinting back, jumped on the wall and brought it back down. It was crazy.”
That kept TCU starter Nick Lodolo’s shutout in tact and kept TCU in a game the offense struggled to get anything going against Elder.
In fact, TCU didn’t have a runner in scoring position until the fifth inning. Oviedo reached on a one-out single, and moved to second on a walk by Conner Shepherd. But groundouts by Andrew Keefer and Hunter Wolfe ended the threat.
Henry led off the seventh with a single, but that didn’t lead to anything. The same can be said when Wolfe drew a two-out walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch in the eighth before a fly out ended the inning.
‘Lupton Magic’ kicked in the ninth.
“When I played at Grand Canyon, I had sneak peak,” Isola said. “I told that to an alumni and he said, ‘That’s not even close to what it gets like.’ Then today it was like, ‘Wow.’ I got chills when I was out there.”
TCU (14-6, 1-0 Big 12) won its conference opener, and is now on a five-game winning streak. The Frogs also extended their home winning streak over the Longhorns to seven games.
Texas is now 16-9, 2-2 in Big 12.
TCU and Texas meet again Saturday. First pitch is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Lupton Stadium. TCU will send right-hander Jake Eissler to the mound, while Texas will go with right-hander Blair Henley. The series finale is at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Freshman outfielder Porter Brown has been lost for the season to a shoulder injury. Brown had been the Frogs’ leadoff hitter, posting a .279 average with three doubles and three RBIs in 16 games.
He had been successful on seven of eight stolen base attempts.
Wolfe batted leadoff for the Frogs on Friday, and Schlossnagle feels Wolfe will be the team’s best leadoff option going forward.