OMAHA, Neb. – You don’t have to win your first game at the College World Series, but you don’t need Google to tell you that this is the preferred route.
For the Saturday and Sunday defeated teams, a cobble-strewn path through the losers bracket awaits.
It means your best pitcher — the one you should have started Saturday or Sunday, stupid — now gets to throw in Wednesday’s or Thursday’s afternoon matinee, when the temperature in downtown Omaha will be 99.
The Horned Frogs have been fortunate. Their 5-3 victory over the Texas Tech Red Raiders on Sunday meant that TCU has won its opening game of every NCAA Regional, Super Regional and College World Series for the past three seasons.
The Frogs can unpack now, in other words. They will be here at least until Friday morning, according to the NCAA schedule.
They earned it the hard way, too, waiting until Sunday’s ninth inning and Luken Baker’s three-run homer to produce the winning runs.
Baker, unsurprisingly, was the talk of the gathered national baseball media Sunday. Standing 6-foot-4 and 265 pounds, blond and only 19, Baker looks like a Norse god, complete with lightning bolts.
His home run Sunday was his 10th of the year and seventh in five weeks.
He likely gets the ESPN spotlight for the foreseeable future. The Horned Frogs get the winners bracket.
Here are the notable takeaways from Sunday’s TCU win over Tech:
1, When lead-off hitter Austen Wade walked to start the top of the ninth inning, it meant that Red Raiders reliever Robert Dugger was likely going to have to face the beefy midsection of the TCU batting order.
Coach Jim Schlossnagle couldn’t have planned it any better, especially when catcher Evan Skoug laced a hit down the left-field line. But Wade, normally an excellent baserunner, skidded to a stop as he rounded second base and elected not to advance to third.
As Wade explained to Schlossnagle later in the dugout, from his angle it appeared that Skoug’s liner could have been speared by a leaping Hunter Hargrove at third base. Wade didn’t want to get doubled up, and so he held momentarily.
With Baker up, Tech was thinking about a game-ending double play. Dugger first tried to get Baker to chase an outside pitch, but the TCU freshman showed his advanced plate discipline.
Baker then guessed that Dugger would try to throw his fastball that rides in on right-handed hitters. Baker launched the pitch into the left-field grandstands.
2, True, TCU starting pitcher Jared Janczak allowed six hits and failed to make it out of the fifth inning. But it was a much-needed solid start for the freshman from Belton.
Janczak struck out eight in 4 2/3 innings. The only time he allowed a Tech hitter to reach base leading off an inning, Janczak picked off Eric Gutierrez and then struck out the next two Red Raiders.
Schlossnagle’s bullpen, in case you haven’t noticed, has turned a corner after a stretch of inconsistent performances at midseason. The pitchers all point to a heart-to-heart meeting with pitching coach Kirk Saarloos after the second loss at Baylor in mid-May.
Brian Trieglaff, who spelled Janczak on Sunday and got the final out of that fifth inning, hadn’t allowed a run since the game in Waco.
3, Your prime-time College World Series feature attraction Tuesday night: the Chanticleers and the Horned Frogs, which sounds Biblical.
The Chanticleers of Coastal Carolina –Team Teal, for those at home watching in color — keep upsetting pedigreed teams and advancing in the tournament. They swept LSU in the Baton Rouge Super Regional and staggered Florida 2-1 in Sunday’s second game.
You can call them Cinderellas, I suppose. But Coastal’s victory Sunday was its 50th of the season. It’s made the NCAA tournament field 14 of the last 16 seasons.
The Chants, as they sometimes call themselves, had six players selected in the recent MLB Draft, including Alex Cunningham, the likely starter Tuesday against the Horned Frogs. Cunningham was drafted in the 28th round by the Detroit Tigers.
Coastal Carolina has won 16 of its last 17.