Everyone agreed. Alex Young did not deliver a bad pitch.
But it doesn’t have to be a bad pitch to be hit out of the ballpark, as Vanderbilt cleanup hitter Zander Wiel showed in the seventh inning Tuesday night at the College World Series.
His homer to left on the 74th pitch in what had been a no-hit game from Young gave the Commodores a 1-0 victory over TCU in a winner’s bracket game played before 24,156.
Wiel turned on a 2-1 pitch and sent it high over the fence near the foul pole, just one inning after Young had tied the TD Ameritrade Park record for strikeouts in a game with 12, his career high.
“He threw me a changeup, and it had been higher than the rest of the ones he had thrown,” Wiel said. “It still wasn’t a terrible pitch. But it was hittable. And I just put a good swing on it.”
It was just one of three hits allowed by Young, who went 7 2/3 innings. He walked one in the 92-pitch outing, leaving after a two-out double in the eighth.
“Never been more proud of him,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said.
The Horned Frogs were 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position, getting shut out for the first time this season and for the first time in 113 games.
“I feel terrible that Alex threw a game like that and we couldn’t back him up with the sticks,” center fielder Cody Jones said. “But we’re not worried. Coming back, we’re going to play our game, we’re going to be fine.”
Junior left-hander Phillip Pfeifer (6-4) struck out seven in seven scoreless innings for Vanderbilt (49-19), and Kyle Wright finished the game allowing a hit and a walk.
Young (9-3) lost the battle of Major League Baseball draftees. Pfeifer selected in the third round by the Los Angeles Dodgers last week, and Young was a second-round pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“It was just one mistake, and his bat just ran into the ball,” Young said. “Every other pitch, I was throwing for a strike. And it’s bad luck.”
Schlossnagle said, “I don’t think it was a bad pitch that Alex threw. It was down, a little bit more in. I think it ran into his bat path. Not to take anything away from [Wiel] — he’s the one who hit it out of the park. But it wasn’t an elevated pitch. Alex makes that pitch a thousand times out of a thousand, and usually it goes our way.”
For the third time in three appearances at the College World Series, the Horned Frogs failed with a chance to go 2-0 in their first two games.
The loss sent TCU to a loser’s bracket game against LSU at 7 p.m. Thursday. The winner will meet Vanderbilt at 7 p.m. Friday, requiring wins Friday and Saturday to advance.
The Horned Frogs are 4-0 in elimination games this year, winning three consecutive games to finish the Fort Worth Regional and then taking Game 3 of the Super Regional.
“Nothing changes,” Jones said. “We just have to make sure we play our brand of baseball, that we’ve done all year long. And we’re going to get back to that. We’re going to do well.”
After the home run, the Horned Frogs had the tying run at second base with no outs in the seventh inning when Keaton Jones reached on an infield single and advanced on a throwing error.
Vanderbilt stuck with Pfeifer, and he delivered. Nolan Brown took a strike and fouled a bunt, then popped to center. Garrett Crain struck out on three pitches. Then Cody Jones sent a hard ground ball to second base that Tyler Campbell scooped up on a tricky roll.
In the eighth inning, the Horned Frogs put two more runners on with two out when Evan Skoug walked and pinch-hitter Evan Williams singled. But on 1-0, Derek Odell hit a tapper in front of the plate and was out.
“He made a lot of good pitches,” said shortstop Keaton Jones, who went 1 for 4 and hit the longest ball off Pfeifer, a drive a little shy of the warning track in left-center field. “He used his curveball. He was throwing that for strikes, and I think using his fastball and his curveball kept us off balance. I think mainly the use of the curveball is good for him, especially against those lefties.”
Vanderbilt almost got the lead early. A passed ball on strike three and Young’s fielding error put the first two batters on base for Vanderbilt in the third inning, then a sacrifice moved the runners at second and third, and Young walked Ro Coleman to load the bases. But he struck out Rhett Wiseman and Dansby Swanson, the No. 1 pick in the Major League Baseball draft last week, to escape the inning and leave the game scoreless.
“Had an opportunity to fold early in the game against some of the very best hitters in the game and made great pitches,” Schlossnagle said. “I thought when we got through that inning that some good things were going to happen.”
TCU threatened in the third inning, also. Jeremie Fagnan’s single put runners at first and second with one out, but Connor Wanhanen grounded weakly to second, and Skoug popped up to right on a 3-2 pitch.
Young struck out four of the first six batters he faced and had a career-high 11 strikeouts through five innings. His 12th strikeout, to start the sixth inning, tied the stadium record at the five-year-old facility for strikeouts in a game.
TCU put two runners with two out on in the first inning when Wanhanen walked and Skoug singled.
But they were stranded when Dane Steinhagen bounced to third.
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407
College World Series
TCU vs. LSU, 7 p.m. Thursday, TD Ameritrade Park, Omaha, Neb. (pitchers TBD)
Records: TCU 50-14, LSU 54-11
Winner vs. Vanderbilt, 7 p.m. Friday; loser eliminated