OMAHA, Neb. – TCU and one-run games seem to get along in the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Playing their sixth game decided by a lone run in the tournament, the Horned Frogs rallied past Texas Tech, 3-2, in the teams’ College World Series opener at TD Ameritrade Park.
TCU (48-16), the No. 7 national seed, held a 1-0 advantage for the first seven innings before seeing Texas Tech (45-20) take the lead with two runs in the top of eighth. However, the Horned Frogs would respond in kind with two in the bottom half of the inning, improving to 5-1 in NCAA Tournament games decided by one run.
The rally would come against Tech closer Jonny Drozd (7-1), who saved both of the Red Raiders’ wins at the Lubbock Super Regional. Keaton Jones led off the inning with a bouncer up the middle, beating the throw from second baseman Alec Humphreys. Following a sacrifice bunt from Kyle Bacak, Cody Jones hit another bouncer up the middle.
Humphreys, ranging into the grass behind second, gloved the ball, but his throw carried past first baseman Eric Gutierrez and one-hopped the fence in front of the Tech dugout, allowing Keaton Jones to score on the error.
After Drozd got Derek Odell to fly out for the inning’s second out, Boomer White would deliver for the Horned Frogs, lining a single to left and bringing Cody Jones home with the eventual game-winning run. White would finish the game with both of TCU’s RBIs.
The first meeting between Big 12 teams at the College World Series since 2005 figured to be a pitchers’ duel, and both TCU’s Preston Morrison and Texas Tech’s Chris Sadberry delivered. Ultimately, neither factored in the decisions in what was the fifth meeting of the season between the Horned Frogs and Red Raiders.
The 2014 Big 12 Pitcher of the Year, Morrison went 7 1/3 innings, scattering five hits and striking out a career-high 10 before exiting after a Stephen Smith single and turning it over to a TCU bullpen that had allowed just two runs in 28 1/3 in the NCAA Tournament entering the game.
However, Horned Frogs closer Riley Farrell (3-1) could not protect the lead, as Anthony Lyons sliced a single to left on a hit-and-run, putting runners at second and third after White overran the ball.
Working ahead of Tyler Neslony 0-2, Farrell left a pitch up, and the team leader in batting with runners in scoring position delivered, driving a ball to the right field wall where Dylan Fitzgerald could not corral it. Neslony’s triple brought both pinch runner Zach Davis and Lyons home and gave the Red Raiders a short-lived lead.
Despite the blown save, Farrell collected the win, stranding the tying run on second in the ninth after getting Todd Ritchie to ground to short.
After lasting just two innings against the Red Raiders on March 22, Morrison came out dealing in his first start of the CWS, setting down five of the first nine Tech batters with strikeouts. By the end of the fourth inning, Morrison had matched his season high with eight strikeouts.
Texas Tech showed signs of life in the fifth, as Devon Conley and Hunter Redman reached to roll the lineup over for Stephen Smith with nobody out. However, Morrison struck out Smith to tie his career high with nine strikeouts before inducing Bryant Burleson into a 5-3 double play to end the frame.
Morrison set the career high by getting Adam Kirsch to chase a low-and-away offering to close the sixth. The right-hander’s effort marked just the third time that a pitcher has reached double-digit strikeouts in the four years the CWS has been played at TD Ameritrade Park.
While Morrison tallied the strikeouts, Sadberry quietly matched him throughout the day, tossing seven innings and allowing just three hits.
Texas Tech entered the CWS having gone 27 2/3 innings without allowing a run, but TCU was quick to snap that streak in the first. Cody Jones bounced a 3-2 pitch down the third base line for a leadoff double and advanced to third on Odell’s sacrifice bunt.
White then skied a sacrifice fly to center to put TCU on the board.
With the victory, TCU will face the winner of the (3) Virginia-Ole Miss game at 7 p.m. CDT on Tuesday, June 17.
Texas Tech will play the loser of that game for the right to remain in Omaha at 2 p.m. CDT on Tuesday, June 17.