For a third consecutive year, TCU faces a Super Regional Game 3.
The Horned Frogs won the previous two. But those were in Fort Worth — in 2014 against Pepperdine and in 2015 against Texas A&M.
Sunday night, they must win Game 3 at Blue Bell Park if they are going to advance. Brian Howard will start for the Frogs (46-16) when they face Texas A&M (49-15) at 8 p.m. Sunday at Blue Bell Park with a College World Series berth at stake.
“We’ve been in this situation before; I’ve been in this situation before,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “But I don’t play. These guys just have to play sound baseball.”
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TCU has beaten Texas A&M five times in seven NCAA postseason games since 2012, including a Super Regional series in Fort Worth last year. But the Horned Frogs have won only one series all-time at College Station since 1974.
TCU is 3-1 in Super Regional Game 3s. The Frogs lost a Game 3 in 2009 at Austin against Texas, won a Game 3 in Austin the following year against Texas, then won Game 3s the past two years.
Howard, a junior right-hander drafted in the 17th round Saturday by the Houston Astros, is no stranger to Game 3s. He pitched two innings in TCU’s Game 3 victory against A&M last season and is one of five players who has been on the team for the past two Game 3s.
Three regulars in the lineup played in last year’s 16-inning Game 3 – catcher Evan Skoug, outfielder Dane Steinhagen and first baseman Connor Wanhanen.
It’s not just coming here and showing up and playing. It’s going to take us coming here and taking it. We’re going to have to take it from Pitch 1, especially in a hostile environment.
TCU catcher Evan Skoug
“It’s not just coming here and showing up and playing,” Skoug said. “It’s going to take us coming here and taking it. We’re going to have to take it from Pitch 1, especially in a hostile environment. They’re going to be amped up, we’re going to be amped up. We’ve just got to make our plays and want it more and just take it.”
TCU is 15-8 on the road this season and 42-21 in the past three seasons.
“The crowd was in it for them from the second pitch to the last pitch,” Skoug said. “A big part of our victory Friday was silencing that crowd. They feast off their crowd.”
A&M holds a 70-24 edge in first-inning runs this season. For TCU, the first-inning margin is 36-29.
In Game 2, the first inning made a difference in the Aggies’ 7-1 victory. Leadoff hitter J.B. Moss homered, and an error and a hit with two outs brought in two more runs to put TCU down 3-0.
“That set us behind the eight ball a little bit,” Schlossnagle said. “That didn’t cost us the ballgame. What did was how good Kyle Simonds was. For the rest of the game, we just tried to keep it close, but also conserve pitching. Had no doubt this whole weekend was going to be a grind, as it has been.”
8Appearances in the College World Series combined for TCU and Texas A&M. The Horned Frogs have been in three of the past six. A&M last appeared in 2011.
Sunday night, Schlossnagle wants his team to relax. He began the week by talking about enjoying the moment and the “life experience” of playing a Super Regional at a place like A&M.
He reminded his players that when Michael Landestoy struck out to end Game 2, “the score instantly became 0-0.”
From there, the formula for success is the same as is in any other game, he said.
“You have good starting pitching, you have timely hitting, and you play good defense behind the pitcher,” Schlossnagle said. “It’s that simple. You can’t do anything more than that.”
TCU vs. Texas A&M
Super Regional Game 3, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)