By the 16th inning Monday night against Texas A&M, Evan Skoug figured he had earned a break.
Not from catching — oh no, he could have gone on and on behind the plate as long as TCU’s season was on the line. He meant in the batter’s box.
He had already hit a rocket up the middle with the bases loaded in the 14th inning that instead bounced off A&M pitcher Ryan Hendrix and became a force out of the winning run at home plate.
“Over at first base, I was a little frustrated,” he said.
But in his next at-bat, his hard chopper behind third base fell out of the glove of Ronnie Gideon, and it turned into the opening that Garrett Crain used to score the winning run on a throwing error in the 5-4 victory that sent the Horned Frogs to the College World Series.
“It came back full circle,” Skoug said. “I got the benefit of the doubt on that one over there.”
It was the final stroke in an extraordinary performance by the freshman catcher from Libertyville, Ill. He caught all 16 innings, tagged out a runner at the plate, reached base five times, worked with six pitchers and finally helped win the game with his bat.
“He’s amazing. He’s a warrior,” relief pitcher Trey Teakell said. “He catches his butt off every game. He loves contact; never shies away from contact. He never gives up. He never backs down. He loves the moment.”
How else to explain Skoug’s weekend? He caught all 34 2/3 innings in the three games of the Super Regional — including two day games played in 90-degree heat — received 524 pitches, got charged with two passed balls, committed no errors and hit .357.
“That was the longest stretch of baseball I’ve ever played non-stop,” he said of the 16 innings.
So how did he keep going?
“I’ve been working for it my whole life,” he said. “I think I just had such a big adrenalin rush that nothing was going to stop me. I could have kept going, I didn’t want to, but I could have kept going. I was getting tired, but at the time, just the ups and downs of the game were keeping me going.”
Coach Jim Schlossnagle saw no sign of Skoug slowing down.
“He was laughing coming back to the dugout,” he said. “He’s soaking wet, but he’s just having a good time. He’s a competitive kid.”
Maybe that explains how the 5-foot-11, 200-pound Skoug still had life in his bat at 1 o’clock in the morning after six hours of crouching, bending, hopping and running.
“He’s an amazing kid that’s tougher than nails and loves to play with passion,” hitting coach Bill Mosiello said. “Yeah, that’s a tribute to him. The strength coach, I’m sure, is a big part of his body looking good and strong.
“But you don’t teach that stuff. The amazing thing is he’s caught so many innings in a row and so many games in a row.”
Skoug, indeed, has caught every inning of the postseason for the Frogs. When TCU meets LSU in Omaha on Sunday, it will be his 63rd game.
He has hit cleanup in every game. His seven home runs and 44 RBIs lead the team. He manages a pitching staff that was second in the country in ERA and includes six pitchers drafted by Major League Baseball this week.
All as a freshman.
“Locked in, an elite hitter,” Schlossnagle said, recalling the 16th-inning at-bat. “For a guy to stay on baseballs against great pitching — he wasn’t trying to get pull happy, he was just trying to use the whole field, and that’s what great hitters do.”
Schlossnagle summed up what everyone is thinking.
“Evan’s a special player.”
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407