This year's NCAA College World Series gets under way Saturday at TD Ameritrade Park and for the second time in five years, the TCU Horned Frogs will be a part of the fun after surviving this weekend's Super Regional against Pepperdine at Lupton Stadium.
It all began Saturday afternoon in front of a standing-room only crowd of 5,094 with TCU defeating Pepperdine 3-2 behind seven strikeouts from starting pitcher Brandon Finnegan. After talking to a few fans and overhearing dozens of others, there was an overwhelming confidence that the Horned Frogs would close out the Waves on Sunday night and return to Omaha for the first time since the magical run in 2010.
And why not? The Frogs were sending Big 12 pitcher of the year Preston Morrison to the mound and playing at home with 5,620 fans behind them. It was the third-largest crowd in the stadium's history and is the largest postseason crowd ever at TCU.
But TCU's 10-game winning streak came to an end at the hands of Pepperdine's Aaron Brown, the West Coast Conference pitcher of the year. The Waves also won by the margin of 3-2, meaning the first Super Regional played on the TCU campus was the tightest of the Super Regionals around the country.
I spoke to the same fans as I had following the first game and the confidence level had dwindled among a few and was still sky high with several others. One of my buddies brought up TCU freshman Tyler Alexander's amazing performance in last weekend's Fort Worth Regional, where he threw a complete game on the heels of the epic 22-inning game that had started in May and ended in June and predicted a repeat performance.
Since the third game of the series was taking place on a Monday afternoon, when most people are at work, TCU was kind enough to post a note on its Facebook page excusing fans from their jobs to come to Lupton Stadium. The decisive game got off to a dreary start for the 4,450 TCU fans who faced multiple rounds of rain, ranging from an irritating drizzle to a heavy downpour. And Pepperdine took an early 3-1 lead.
Jordan Kipper replaced Alexander in the top of the fourth and kept the Frogs in the game, leading to the dramatic finish. TCU, down to their last three outs and trailing 5-4 going into the top of the ninth would take the lead in the most improbable way -- with Jerrick Suiter scoring on a suicide squeeze bunt by Kyle Bacak.
The cheers were the loudest of the weekend, but closer Riley Ferrell still had to finish the game since Pepperdine had won the coin flip and was designated the home team on TCU's field. Ferrell struck out the Waves Bryan Langlois with the tying run on third, and the celebration was under way on the field and in the stands.
The Frogs 6-5 win means they will take on Texas Tech, who advanced to its first College World Series, on Sunday at 2 p.m.
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