Mac Engel

TCU’s comeback against NC State delivered a message for all of us

TCU players celebrate after coming back to beat North Carolina State 9-8 in 10 innings late Monday night.
TCU players celebrate after coming back to beat North Carolina State 9-8 in 10 innings late Monday night. Star-Telegram

This space was originally designated to celebrate the hasty arrival of Joey Gallo, the slugger the Rangers are hoping is a once-in-a-generation player.

Instead, for a day, hailing Gallo’s first game in Arlington will have to wait. TCU baseball does not have the drawing power of the Texas Rangers or a Joey Gallo, but on Monday night its once-in-a-generation game was truly transcendent and a giant lesson for us all.

TCU’s 10-inning win is worth revisiting as a reminder to follow the corny creed of Rangers manager Jeff Banister: Never, ever quit.

That goes for coaches, players, media, kids, adults, players and fans.

In reviewing TCU’s did-that-just-happen? comeback win against North Carolina State in the NCAA Fort Worth Regional finale, the notion is reinforced that players should always remember to keep playing, and fans should know to always stick around till the end.

It is hokey, and it is the truth.

Chances are good when you or your team is down 8-1 with four outs remaining, it is over.

“I know a lot of people left early,” said TCU sophomore infielder Elliot Barzilli, who drove in the winning run with a single in the 10th inning. “I know there were a lot of people who thought it was over.”

Guilty as charged, your excellency. My arrival in the third inning to take in “the scene” was met immediately with three NC State runs. By the time I left, the home team was down 4-1 in the seventh. Game over. Season over. National seed and home field in the regional wasted.

My reason to leave was rooted in baseball fact that TCU had violated a basic rule for a winning team. Twice the Horned Frogs had runners thrown out at third base, in the fourth and sixth innings. In a close game, those plays are more than enough to lose and a solid reason to go home.

“In the back of your mind, I felt that. I’m sure everyone else did,” TCU junior outfielder Evan Williams said. “You could feel the stadium deflate.”

The amount of plays that had to go right in order for TCU to come back and win the game in 10 innings was more than ample reason to mail it in or leave the stadium. Nobody could blame anybody if they called it a night.

In the bottom of the eighth inning TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle belied his normal persona and walked up and down his dugout trying to inspire his team.

“Fellas — look up there,” Schloss pointed to the beautiful full moon in the dark night. “There is a full moon. Some crazy stuff is going to happen tonight.”

This was not an act of desperation, but necessity. I asked him if he actually believed it.

“I’d like to think I believed it,” he said, “but you have six outs left against a good team.”

TCU kept playing, extending the game and creating more than enough opportunity for NC State to “execute” a historic gag that ESPN could not get enough of on Tuesday morning. In a game involving teenagers and 20-year-olds, crazy stuff started to happen —namely walks, balks, passed balls and errors.

It was far from beautiful baseball, but it worked.

By Tuesday morning, Schloss had more than 150 text messages on his phone, and all of his players had scores of new attention on social media. By Tuesday morning, TCU had scheduled its anticipated best-of-three, winner-goes-to-the-College World Series Super Regional against intrastate buddy Texas A&M.

“I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet that it happened,” Barzilli said.

The same could be said for what now must be close to 85,000 fans who were in attendance on Monday night. This was one of those “all-time” games that no one forgets. Whatever happens to TCU and these players, for the remainder of this tournament, they will always have Monday night.

They have it because they never stopped playing, and they followed Banister’s motto of simply never quitting.

It is corny. It is hokey. It is also the truth.

Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.

Mac Engel, 817-390-7697

Twitter: @macengelprof and The Big Mac Blog

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