Cam Warner hadn’t homered in almost two months.
But his offense got him to TCU, and Friday night it helped deliver a 7-0 victory against Oral Roberts in his first NCAA postseason game with the Horned Frogs.
Warner’s drive to deep left, near Lupton Stadium’s giant new LED scoreboard, provided the final runs in a four-run sixth inning that broke open a close game. It sent the Horned Frogs (43-15) to a Saturday night winner’s bracket game against Gonzaga, scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
“We signed him to hit,” coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “His reputation as a junior college player was all about his offense.”
Hitting second in the order, the Hill Junior College transfer came in slugging .416 with 15 doubles. But his last home run was April 6.
Cam Warner’s home run was the 49th of the season for TCU. The Horned Frogs have homers from all nine players in the regular lineup.
In the sixth inning, with a runner on base and TCU having scratched out a 2-0 lead, Warner launched a towering drive to left field on the first pitch from reliever Josh McMinn.
It was his fourth home run — the Frogs’ sixth in 11 games and No. 49 in all — and Warner gave Schlossnagle credit for it.
“He said, ‘Heads up, you might get a hanging breaking ball,’” said Warner, a junior from Canberra, Australia. “Funny thing is, I got a hanging breaking ball.”
Schlossnagle said he had simply watched McMinn warming.
I said to Cam, ‘I think he’s going to try and drop one in there for a strike — be ready to hit. It changed the game for sure.
TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle, on Cam Warner’s home run
“He was flipping his breaking ball in there,” Schlossnagle said. “I said to Cam, ‘I think he’s going to try and drop one in there for a strike – be ready to hit. It changed the game for sure.”
Oral Roberts (38-20) must turn around for an 11 a.m. Saturday elimination game against Arizona State, which fell to Gonzaga earlier Friday.
Mitchell Traver (1-1) pitched five innings in his longest outing of the season and won the postseason opener for TCU for a second consecutive season. He allowed two hits, struck out four and walked one with 60 pitches.
TCU scored its first two runs without benefit of a hit.
Austen Wade scored in the first inning on a throwing error to third base by catcher Matt Whatley. The first run of the sixth came in on a passed ball.
TCU improved to 15-3 in regional games at Lupton Stadium and 19-5 in home NCAA postseason games. The Frogs are 39-31 overall in NCAA postseason.
Oral Roberts starter Bryce Howe (6-5) left after a walk and a single to lead off the sixth inning, trailing 1-0. Howe, the Summit League leader with 79 strikeouts in 82 innings, struck out five but walked a career-high eight, struggling with his command.
“We expected him to compete well, and I thought he did,” Oral Roberts coach Ryan Folmar said. “I thought his stuff was really good. If he could have commanded a little bit better, we could have kept him out a little bit longer. The stuff was really good. The command just wasn’t what it was normally.”
With Howe out of the game and runners on the corners, things changed for TCU.
A passed ball allowed Ryan Merrill to score for a 2-0 lead.
Then Warner batted.
“What I’ve been really impressed with is his defense,” Schlossnagle said. “He’s had to learn a position he hasn’t played in a long time. His defense was really important, because if he couldn’t play second base, I’m not sure where he would play, with Barzilli and some of the guys in the outfield. His ability to play second base makes our lineup better because of his defense.”
Not to mention his bat.
Fort Worth Regional
Today at Lupton Stadium
vs. Gonzaga, 6:30 p.m., ESPN3
Sunday: TBD, 2 p.m. and/or 6 p.m., ESPN3