TCU closer Ferrell returns with ‘electric stuff’ in ninth inning vs. LSU

TCU closer Riley Ferrell, left, and catcher Evan Skoug shake hands after Ferrell dominated LSU in the ninth inning.
TCU closer Riley Ferrell, left, and catcher Evan Skoug shake hands after Ferrell dominated LSU in the ninth inning. AP

After the five least-effective outings of his career at TCU, closer Riley Ferrell pitched a dominating ninth inning Sunday against LSU.

He threw nine consecutive strikes to strike out the side after missing the plate with his first two pitches.

He got three called strikes, two foul balls, and four swing-and-misses against the 6-7-8 hitters in the order. It was the fourth time this season Ferrell struck out the side, but he had not done it since April 14 at UT Arlington.

“It’s what I thought he’d do,” third baseman Derek Odell said. “Exactly what I thought he’d do. I was happy that we gave him the opportunity to come in with less stress to work it out for himself, to get in front of that crowd, to figure out his problems for himself, and I think that’s what he did. He had his electric stuff, like we all know he has.”

Starting with a May 19 appearance against Baylor at the Big 12 tournament, Ferrell had blown two saves, failed to get out of an inning against NC State in the Fort Worth Regional, given up a game-winning sacrifice fly against Texas A&M in the Super Regional and put two batters on base without getting an out in another Super Regional game.

Schlossnagle said he wanted to give Ferrell a chance to pitch in a situation with the game not being on the line, and the 10-3 lead against LSU allowed that.

“I definitely wanted to get him in the game,” Schlossnagle said. “He was going to pitch either way, whether we were up, down or close.”

Ferrell was not made available to reporters after the game. But Schlossnagle said it was good to see a smile on his face.

“We’ve never had any doubt about him,” Schlossnagle said. “And certainly, I understand with his performance in the last three weeks, it’s understandable to ask the questions that have been asked. But he’s been money in the bank for us for three years. He’s going to pitch in the big leagues, barring injury. He’s part of who we are. He’s the reason we’ve won 50 games.”

Ferrell was drafted in the third round by the Houston Astros last week.

Wanhanen surge

Connor Wanhanen finished the regular season in a slump, but he’s 10 for 36 (.278) in the postseason with nine RBIs.

His single in the fourth inning drove in a run and another single in the fifth drove in two. He had three RBIs in the Fort Worth Regional, three in the Super Regional and now has three in the College World Series.

“Through that little slump, my swing still felt fine,” Wanhanen said. “I just wasn’t connecting with pitches like I had before. Everything’s feeling good right now. Seeing pitches really well, being really disciplined in the strike zone. It’s good to see something fall through now.”

Wanhanen deflected credit.

“It just happened to be my spot,” he said. “I’ve got faith in all our guys up and down the order. I’m definitely glad it was me that got to do it. But anybody could have done it on our team.”

Game 2 starter

Schlossnagle said he will announce the Game 2 starter Monday after he got a chance to watch Cal State Fullerton and Vanderbilt play the late game Sunday. Tyler Alexander, Alex Young and Mitchell Traver are the candidates.

TCU has played Vanderbilt this season. The Horned Frogs won a 4-2 decision on March 8 at Dodger Stadium with Preston Morrison pitching. Alexander pitched 11/3 innings in relief. Riley Ferrell got a five-out save.

Game notes

▪ TCU has won its College World Series opener all three years it has participated.

▪ The victory gave TCU it second 50-win season under Jim Schlossnagle.

▪ The Horned Frogs improved to 20-6 in games started by left-handed pitchers.

▪ Schlossnagle is two victories from tying Lance Brown for most all-time at TCU, 517.

▪ The Horned Frogs are 4-1 against SEC teams this year (1-0 vs. Vanderbilt, 2-1 vs. Texas A&M, 1-0 vs. LSU) and 14-8 against ranked opponents.

▪ It was the third time in the postseason TCU has scored 10 runs or more and the 14th time all-time.

▪ Sunday’s attendance was 24,506, fewer than 100 fans shy of the Game 3 record.

Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407

Twitter: @calexmendez

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