Austen Wade hadn’t had a hit. He didn’t need one to give TCU a lead in the seventh inning and a chance to go to the College World Series.
The sophomore right fielder from Midland drew a full-count walk that forced in the go-ahead run, and the Horned Frogs scored two more runs on a sacrifice fly and a wild pitch on the way to a 4-1 victory in Game 3 of a Super Regional against Texas A&M at Blue Bell Park.
Wade, 0-for-10 when he stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and one out, got ahead 3-0 against Aggies reliever Andrew Vinson, took two strikes and then walked on a pitch way outside.
It was Wade’s first RBI of the series, and it gave TCU a 2-1 lead.
A&M turned to its best reliever, Mark Ecker, and on the second pitch, Cam Warner followed with a sacrifice fly to deep right, scoring Dane Steinhagen for a 3-1 lead.
Evan Skoug got ahead 3-1, took a strike, and then walked on a wild pitch that scored Connor Wanhanen to put the Frogs up 4-1.
Pitching with a lead for the first time, TCU right-hander Brian Howard dominated the bottom of the inning, striking out Jonathan Maroney and Walker Pennington and getting a ground ball from Hunter Melton.
Howard struck out eight in seven innings, with two walks and two hits allowed.
He gave up an unearned run in the first inning after the first two hitters reached on a single and an error.
After that, he settled in and cruised, keeping the Frogs in the game against A&M starter Turner Larkins.
TCU tied the game in the fifth inning on a passed ball. Josh Watson, who singled to lead off the inning, came around on Ryan Merrill’s single with one out, Wanhanen’s fielder’s choice and scored from third on a passed ball with Wade at the plate.
TCU scored on a passed ball, bases-loaded walk, sacrifice fly and a wild pitch. The Frogs were 1-for-15 with runners on base and 0-for-6 with a runner in scoring position, stranding six.
Wade’s first walk gave TCU 300 for the season. The Horned Frogs hadn’t walked that many times in a season since 1999, when they had 303, and had drawn five in the game and 13 in the series.
TCU was playing its third consecutive Game 3 of a Super Regional, aiming to reach the College World Series for a third consecutive season.
The Frogs were 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, was no stranger to Game 3s. He pitched two innings in TCU’s Game 3 victory against A&M last season and was one of five players who has been on the team for the past two Game 3s.
Three regulars in the TCU lineup played in last year’s 16-inning Game 3 — catcher Evan Skoug, Steinhagen and Wanhanen.
“It’s not just coming here and showing up and playing,” Skoug said after Game 2. “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 entered 15-8 on the road this season and 42-21 in the past three seasons.
After Game 2, TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said he wanted his team to relax. He began the week by talking about enjoying the moment and the “life experience” of playing a road Super Regional at a national seed.
“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.”