TCU’s quest to start 2-0 at the College World Series is finally over.
With it comes a never-before-realized reward — two days off and a spot in the semifinals, with two chances to land in the championship series.
Luken Baker’s solo home run and RBIs from Austen Wade, Cam Warner and Michael Landestoy helped the Horned Frogs to a 6-1 victory in a winner’s bracket game against Coastal Carolina on Tuesday night.
“First time we’ve been able to come up here and win the first two games,” coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “Certainly grateful for that.”
TCU (49-16) advanced to a Friday night game, awaiting Coastal or Texas Tech out of the elimination bracket, with two chances to win one game to reach the championship series. The Frogs, making their third consecutive College World Series appearance and fourth overall, have never played with that advantage in Omaha.
Freshman Luken Baker is 14 for 30 in the NCAA postseason.
“We’re still going to be facing a good team,” Schlossnagle said. “We’re not going to take anything for granted, but we’re going to use the advantage of the rest and then be loaded back up here on Friday night.”
Baker’s home run to lead off the second inning was his second in as many at-bats at TD Ameritrade Park and his eighth in 18 games. His three-run homer in the ninth inning Sunday lifted TCU past Texas Tech.
The freshman designated hitter from Spring singled in his next two at-bats, making him 14 for 30 in the NCAA postseason to that point. He walked in the eighth inning.
“I was a little more excited than I have been for a few of the ones in the past because it was my first opposite field one, and it felt really good,” he said of the home run.
Reliever Ryan Burnett retired all 10 batters he faced, needing only 20 pitches for the first seven and 32 total.
TCU starter Brian Howard went 5 2/3 innings, exiting after an RBI single by G.K. Young and a walk with two outs. Ryan Burnett entered to get the final out of the inning, retiring Tyler Chadwick on a line drive to left on the first pitch.
Burnett retired all 10 batters he faced, needing just 20 pitches for the first seven and 32 total to pick up his first save. He won Sunday’s game by retiring one batter.
“It feels awesome. I’ve been waiting two years on this,” said Burnett, a sophomore left-hander from The Woodlands who has had the past two seasons cut short by elbow surgeries and is playing with an ACL injury now. “It’s definitely a blessing. I’m honored. I worked my butt off this fall, this spring, just to get here once again. I love it right now. It’s awesome.”
We’re four-for-four in the two games on the guy that comes out of the bullpen getting the first guy out. ... Really proud of our bullpen.
TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle
Howard (10-2) allowed six hits, a run, walked three and struck out seven to win his third consecutive NCAA Tournament start. But he constantly worked with men on base. He faced 24 batters and got the benefit of two caught stealing, an out on the bases and an out off a sacrifice. He threw 101 pitches.
“We’re four-for-four in the two games on the guy that comes out of the bullpen getting the first guy out,” Schlossnagle said. “And that’s important in any baseball game, but it’s really important here. ... Really proud of our bullpen.”
56Walks for TCU leadoff hitter Austen Wade, one shy of the TCU record set by Matt Curry in 2010. He had a bases-loaded walk in the fourth inning.
TCU had the bases loaded with no outs to start the fifth and sixth innings but managed only three runs.
In the fifth, after Landestoy’s popout, Wade walked to bring in Josh Watson for a 2-0 lead, and Warner beat out a double-play relay to score Dane Steinhagen for a 3-0 lead. In the sixth, after Watson walked to load the bases, Steinhagen hit into a 4-6-3 double play that scored Elliott Barzilli for a 4-0 lead.
Landestoy tripled in Omaha native Ryan Merrill with one out in the ninth inning for a 5-1 lead.
“We had opportunities in both the fifth and sixth to blow the game open and didn’t really put a good swing on much at all,” Schlossnagle said. “But scored just enough. And then I thought Ryan Burnett was certainly the story of the game, to come in there, having not pitched all that much. What he gave us out of the bullpen was oustanding.”
TCU has won its CWS opener each year it has reached Omaha. But the Horned Frogs lost in the second game to UCLA in 2010, Virginia in 2014 and Vanderbilt last year.
It was just the second meeting between TCU and Coastal Carolina. They played Feb. 23, 2007, at the Baseball at the Beach tournament in Myrtle Beach, S.C., when Coastal won 11-6.