Wymer Becomes Latest TCU Omaha HeroCollege World Series
OMAHA — Over the course of four straight trips to Omaha, TCU has generated quite a few special and memorable College World Series performances. By now, whenever a Horned Frog dazzles on the big stage, there’s a decent chance it will remind you of something another Frog has done in recent years. That’s a testament to the impressive tradition this program has created during the Jim Schlossnagle era.
So when Sean Wymer came out of the bullpen and fired 4.1 innings of shutout ball in Thursday’s win against Louisville, it felt a lot like the time Trey Teakell threw 4.1 hitless, scoreless innings of relief in the 2015 CWS against LSU. Schlossnagle said he’d have to think hard to come up with a better performance than what Wymer did Thursday — there’s plenty of competition, like Teakell’s work against LSU, but Wymer certainly added another chapter to the program’s increasingly rich postseason history on Thursday night.
Wymer allowed two hits and no walks while striking out five — none of them bigger than the first.
The Frogs called upon Wymer in a high-leverage situation in a 4-3 game in the fifth inning, with two on and two outs for national Player of the Year Brendan McKay. Wymer proceeded to strike him out on three pitches, setting him up with an excellent changeup down and away, then elevating a 94 mph heater that McKay swung through.
“Obviously the story tonight was Sean and how well he pitched out of the bullpen for us. I was trying to hold off on putting him in there as long as possible but felt like in the fifth inning there with McKay coming to the plate, that could be the game with how good their bullpen is,” Schlossnagle said.
That Louisville bullpen certainly lived up to its billing Thursday, as Adam Wolf, Sam Bordner and Lincoln Henzman combined to work 6.1 scoreless innings in relief of Nick Bennett. But TCU has a darn good bullpen too, anchored by Wymer and closer Durbin Feltman. On this day, the Frogs didn’t need to summon Feltman, because Wymer was able to match the Louisville ‘pen zero for zero, taking the Frogs over the finish line from the fifth inning. He made sure that the four runs the Frogs scored off Bennett in the second were all they would need.
Wymer had retired all six batters he faced in his CWS debut Tuesday against Texas A&M, and he stretched that streak to 13 straight men retired by setting down the first seven batters he faced Thursday. His three-pitch repertoire was downright filthy: a 91-94 fastball, a vicious putaway downer curve at 79-82 and an 82-84 changeup that has emerged as a viable third weapon for him.
“I’ve been able to control all three pitches — fastball, curveball, changeup,” Wymer said. “Throwing them for strikes when I want to, and throwing down when I want an out pitch. Keeping the game simple and making good pitches.”
With that kind of three-pitch arsenal and a physical, durable frame, Wymer is likely ticketed for the weekend rotation next year, according to Schlossnagle. And he has the stuff to become a dominant front-line starter. He’s already made a huge jump from his freshman year to his sophomore year, dropping his ERA from 4.68 in 32.2 innings last year to 2.10 in 55.2 innings this year. He’s improved his strikeout rate while decreasing his walk rate — he now has a 66-10 K-BB mark.
Schlossnagle credit Wymer with putting in the work to transform himself into a bona fide star, but also credited pitching coach Kirk Saarloos with helping him unlock his potential.
“He’s always had a good arm, he’s always been able to spin the ball. But in the fall, Kirk dropped his arm angle just a little bit,” Schlossnagle said. “And that’s allowed him to command his fastball more. He had actually a different breaking ball, it’s a curveball but it’s shorter, tighter than the true overhand breaking ball that he used to throw. And his changeup has really come on in just the last three weeks. He used to kind of tip that pitch and slow his arm down a bit, but the more he’s gotten to pitch and use that pitch, it’s gotten better.”
The emergence of that changeup has made Wymer even better, but he has been a major weapon all season long, a very important but sometimes-overlooked key to the success of a 49-win team.
“His poise this season is like no other. He’s at his best all the time,” TCU outfielder Austen Wade said. “I can’t remember a time when Sean felt flustered on the mound. He’s one-sided in emotion. He’s always intense. He was stellar tonight — stellar basically all season for us.”
Junior first baseman Connor Wanhanen has had a front-row seat for Wymer’s development into a beast, because he was a high school teammate of Wymer in Flower Mound, Texas.
“I was just talking to our high school coach out there. I said, ‘He looks like a completely different guy,’” Wanhanen said. “And that’s so true. Just watching him out there, it’s like, honestly, just a machine at work. And it’s been awesome to see him grow up. We’re roommates on road trips so we get to spend a lot of time together, and it’s been a really awesome experience I think for the both of us to go through our time at Flower Mound and then to come here on the biggest stage in Division I baseball, just to see him do his thing — it’s been awesome.”
Wymer helped set the Frogs up wonderfully for a continued run through the losers’ bracket. He threw 57 pitches and probably won’t be available until the CWS Finals, should TCU get that far. But his extended relief outing kept Feltman and the rest of the bullpen fresh. The Frogs can start Mitchell Traver on Friday, and if they beat Florida in that game, they can bring back Jared Janczak in a rematch Saturday.
We’ve said it all week: TCU was the team best constructed to make a run through the losers’ bracket, because of its pitching depth. So when talented starter Nick Lodolo started to give up some hard contact in the middle innings, TCU had a darn good insurance policy ready to back him up in Wymer. Now it’s up to the rest of the staff to get Wymer another chance to take the mound next week.
“He’s a weapon down there. He can pitch in any role,” Schlossnagle said. “And hopefully we can hang around long enough to where we get to use him again.”