TCU

Luken Baker homer helps TCU win Big 12 title, secure home regional

Luken Baker, holding his batting helmet, prepares to celebrate with his teammates at the plate after hitting a solo home run in the 10th inning of TCU’s 11-10 victory against West Virginia in the Big 12 tournament championship game Sunday. It was his fourth home run of the tournament.
Luken Baker, holding his batting helmet, prepares to celebrate with his teammates at the plate after hitting a solo home run in the 10th inning of TCU’s 11-10 victory against West Virginia in the Big 12 tournament championship game Sunday. It was his fourth home run of the tournament. AP

The moment came up again for Luken Baker, and everyone held their breath.

But he flied out, and he thought that was it — he’d missed his chance.

Not quite. His teammates forced extra innings, the freshman DH came up again, and this time he didn’t miss.

Baker drilled a line-drive home run over the left field fence in the 10th inning to lift TCU to an 11-10 victory against West Virginia in the Big 12 tournament championship game Sunday at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark. It earned a home regional next week for the Horned Frogs; the pairings will be announced at 11 a.m. Monday on ESPNU.

For Baker, it was his fourth home run in five games in the tournament — all to the same spot in the stadium — and he earned the Most Outstanding Player Award.

“It was a little down, a little in, but it was a good pitch to hit,” Baker said.

That must have been the case all week for the 6-foot-4, 265-pound hitter from Spring. He went 15 for 22 with 10 runs scored, a double, four home runs, 11 RBIs and a 1.273 slugging percentage.

He walked twice, was hit by a pitch once, and struck out twice. He did not hit into a double play, and he had a .720 on-base percentage.

His hits and runs scored were tournament records.

And the home run, on a 3-1 fastball, was the 72nd hit of the tournament for the Frogs, breaking the record of 71 set by Baylor in six games in 2003 and Oklahoma in five in 1997.

“I sure am glad he came to college,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said.

Baker turned down Major League Baseball so he could hit and pitch as a college player. His pitching season was cut short in April by a muscle strain. But nothing has slowed his batting.

Baker has five home runs in the past 10 games, starting May 15 at Baylor.

“He’s just on a roll,” Schlossnagle said. “And he’s getting good pitches to hit. And you see him really developing as a hitter, more than just hitting line drives to right field, which he’s done most of the season. Now he’s starting to manage the barrel and do different things in the count when he gets count leverage.”

Baker saved a game in which TCU blew an 8-0 lead. The Frogs opened with a five-run first inning keyed by Evan Skoug’s two-run double.

West Virginia scored 10 runs over the third, fourth and fifth innings to lead 10-9. The go-ahead runs scored on a double by DH Kyle Davis, who finished with three RBIs for a tournament-record 14.

The double came off Ryan Burnett, who got the final out of the inning and pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings.

TCU almost tied the game in the eighth inning when Skoug led off with a double, moved to third on a fly ball to medium left center from Baker — “I moved him over, but I didn’t get him in,” Baker said — and was cut down at the plate on a throw from second base.

The Frogs did tie it in the ninth. Josh Watson and Dane Steinhagen singled to open the inning, and Ryan Merrill tied the game with a sacrifice fly.

Meanwhile, TCU closer Durbin Feltman (3-0) pitched a scoreless eighth inning to keep it a one-run game, a scoreless ninth to keep it tied, and a scoreless 10th to win it.

Baker said after the eighth inning, he found Durbin and told him, “You’re going to get this win.”

And in the 10th inning, with one out and the bases empty, Baker got a chance to back up his words.

He got ahead 3-0 against West Virginia’s Blake Smith, took a breaking ball for a strike, then got a fastball.

His moment.

He didn’t miss.

Carlos Mendez: 817-390-7760, @calexmendez

NCAA Selection Show

11 a.m. Monday, ESPNU

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