TCU Grounds High-Flying CowboysColumns
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FORT WORTH, Texas – Was this a preview of some postseason showdown between Big 12 bullies? Two of the better teams from what has been the best conference in the country so far this season went down to the wire in Ft. Worth tonight. But it was the Horned Frogs who proved to have one more clutch hit and one less bonehead defensive play to take a one-run decision from the Cowboys. Even though it was ugly, it was still a sight to see. Here is how it played out.
O.S.U. – 000 005 000 – 5 7 3
T.C.U. – 004 001 10x – 6 7 3
WP: Trey Morris, 1-0
LP: Cole Hearrean, 0-1
Save: Durbin Feltman, 6
– Ryan Cash, 3-for-5
– Cade Cabbiness, 1-for-2, 2RBI
– Jon Littel, 1-for-4, 2RBI
– Evan Skoug, 2-for-3, RBI
– Cam Warner, 2-for-4, RBI
– Oklahoma State, 15-8, 0-2 Big 12
– TCU, 16-5, 4-1 Big 12
HOW IT WENT DOWN:
The thought of TCU All American catcher Evan Skoug hitting .203 so far this season just doesn’t seem right. If you said he was hitting double that, .406, that would seem much more plausible. Yet, coming into tonight, there he was hitting .203. And plus, there he was still hitting in the three-hole for the Horned Frogs.
Tonight might’ve been Skoug’s night to break free. He *only* went 2-for-3 with a walk and a pair of singles. But he was clutch tonight, getting the game-winning run off his bat with a sharp shot straight up the middle, scoring Austen Wade from second base as part of a two-out rally in the bottom of the seventh inning. There it was, 6-5, TCU wins off that RBI single.
“I don’t care what that scoreboard says or what the stat sheet says,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle would say afterward. “We know and I can promise you they know too, Evan is a good hitter. Just like (Garrett) Benge on their side. I don’t care what the stat sheet says, they’re dangerous hitters. Those kind of players, they’re winning kind of players and they rise to the occasion when the occasion comes calling.”
Big? Yes, it was a big occasion too. So it’s only right that Skoug’s bat come up big in a showdown of ranked teams. His bat, and his work behind the plate tonight – blocking pitches in the dirt, making tag outs at home plate – made him a prime time performer.
“We’ve gone to battle with that guy too many times,” Schloss said of Skoug. “And he’s been big at the highest level too, getting huge at-bats in the Super Regionals and in 16-inning games. He’s been our three or four hitter since his freshman year so we’re comfortable with him in big situations.”
This game wasn’t a thing of beauty. In football, this was similar to one of those LSU-Alabama defensive struggles. Except this one included just that, defensive struggles. Each team committed three errors on the night, along with a couple of mental blunders and near disasters.
Don’t get me wrong, if you saw the game on ESPN2, you saw some decent hitting and situational play as well. But some flubs on each side contributed heavily to the 5-5 deadlock these two teams found themselves in at the singing of Take Me Out To The Ballgame. But that set the stage for Skoug’s heroics in the bottom of the seventh.
“It wasn’t the cleanest game on either side, both teams making three errors,” Schloss said. “But I really feel like the quality of our at-bats are getting a lot better. I feel like we’re turning the corner offensively, especially against a team with a good staff like they have.”
Coach Schloss used a word that I like a lot in describing this win: grit. Both teams showed some fight and never stopped hustling and trying to make plays. Before the ninth inning began I went down to take a picture from the OSU dugout and I could hear Cowboys coach Josh Holliday as he paced back and forth extolling his team, “We’ve hung with these guys all night long. We’ve been here before with them. We can do this guys. You just have to believe.”
Alas, the Cowboys ran into a pair of buzzsaws in Haylen Green and Durbin Feltman, who pitched the eighth and ninth innings respectively. Feltman was freaking electric, hitting 96 and 97 on the gun in a few of his 17 pitches needed to subdue the final batters of the game. The save was Feltman’s sixth of the season.
“Sometimes you have to win an ugly game like this,” Schloss said. “It wasn’t pretty but I’m really proud of the way we played today.”
With the win, TCU clinches the series victory going into Sunday’s finale, its first series win over Oklahoma State since 2013. And yes, that means Sunday will probably be another big stage for Evan Skoug to show his sense of clutch.
– Lots of buzz to this game tonight. ESPN2 was here to broadcast the game live and the crowd itself was wicked-impressive at Lupton Stadium. Tonight’s attendance was announced at 5,502.
– One of the biggest ovations of the night was for when the scoreboard showed a shot of TCU basketball coach Jamie Dixon sitting in the front row behind home plate. His Horned Frog cagers are heading to Manhattan to play in the Final Four of the NIT in Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night.
– If you guys recall, this was nearly a rematch of last year’s championship series in Omaha. Both TCU and Oklahoma State started out the College World Series at 2-0 in their respective brackets. Eventually Arizona beat the Cowboys twice and Coastal Carolina beat the Frogs twice to eliminate both Big 12 bullies.
– In case you are wondering, the Big 12 has four teams in the D1baseball rankings and ranks first in conference RPI according to WarrenNolan.com and leads all conferences in non conference winning percentage at .718. Prior to this weekend’s games, Jim Schlossnagle said of the Big 12, “I think every single team is better than last year. You can go all the way up and down the league and I think everybody is better than a year ago.”
– As a reminder, the Big 12 went 7-2 vs. the SEC in the Shriner’s College Classic in Houston two weeks ago as Baylor, TCU and Texas Tech matched up with LSU, Ole Miss and Texas A&M.
– Speaking of Oklahoma and Baylor, after witnessing OU’s 11-3 rout of the Bears to open the weekend on Friday night, it should be noted that the Bears came back with a stellar 7-0 win over the Sooners in game two, played Saturday afternoon.
Some more images from tonight’s OSU-TCU game…