By Wendell Barnhouse | firstname.lastname@example.org
FORT WORTH, Texas – To paraphrase the words of the Announcers Buck (Jack and Joe) … And we’ll see you tomorrow … afternoon.
Pepperdine forced Game Three in the Fort Worth Super Regional with a grind-it-out 3-2 victory over TCU Sunday at Lupton Stadium. The Waves and the Horned Frogs will meet at 3 p.m. Monday on ESPN2 with the winner heading to the College World Series in Omaha.
“It’s a big for us and big for the program,” said TCU shortstop Keaton Jones, whose two-out single in the eighth inning nearly tied the game. “We want to get to Omaha. As a team, I think we can put this game behind us.”
The Horned Frogs (46-16) will start freshman lefty Tyler Alexander (10-3, 1.94 ERA), who has thrown complete games as TCU clinched the Big 12 championship and the Fort Worth Regional. The Waves (43-17) will go with sophomore right hander Jackson McClelland (8-3, 3.53 ERA).
By virtue of a coin flip, the Horned Frogs will be the visiting team for the second consecutive game.
“Those are the rules,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle, whose team won the Austin Regional in 2010 to reach the CWS. “In 2010, we weren’t a national seed and we were the home team twice. That’s part of it. We’ve won regionals in that dugout. We’ve won conference tournaments in that dugout. That’s no big deal. We get to hit first.”
Pepperdine ended the Frogs’ 10-game winning streak with timely hitting and an outstanding performance from junior Aaron Brown. A third-round selection by the Philadelphia Phillies, Brown is a .300 hitter who will play center field and bat clean up in Game Three.
He’s also a quality left handed pitcher. He battled through seven innings, throwing 119 pitches to improve his record to 3-1. And after he was relieved, he moved to center and made the defensive play of the game.
“Aaron Brown was outstanding all over the field,” Schlossnagle said. “We had opportunities early in the game to get a lead. Brown is the story of the game. He had command of three pitches and he looked better than he did on film.
"As (Texas) Coach (Augie) Garrido says, 'Sometimes when you lose, it's not your fault.' I think it's more about Aaron Brown today than it was anything else."
After the Waves took a 3-0 lead, TCU finally broke through thanks to a Pepperdine melt down. Two errors on one play scored one run and put Garrett Crain at third. He scored on Jerrick Suiter’s single. A stolen base put Suiter at second with two out.
Jones lined an 0-1 pitch to center. Brown charged and threw home. The throw to catcher Aaron Barnett easily beat Suiter, who by rule couldn’t try to run over the defensive player. Instead, he went airborne and tried to leap over Barnett. Spectacular, but out.
“As soon as I saw it hit to center, I thought we had a chance to get the runner because of Aaron’s arm,” Pepperdine coach Steve Rodriguez said.
“I wasn’t surprised they sent the runner,” Brown said. “That’s a chance for them to tie it up. The runner made a great try getting to the plate.”
Lead-off hitter Brandon Caruso gave Pepperdine a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fifth with a two-out single off TCU starter Preston Morrison. He also drove in the eventual winning run with a two-out double in the bottom of the seventh.
Sophomore second baseman Hutton Moyer, the son of former major-league pitcher Jamie Moyer, was a game-long pest. He scored the Waves’ first run and started the two-run rally in the seventh inning. With one out and down 0-2, he was hit by a pitch.
“I tried to go with a curve ball over the inside half of the plate and I hit his leg,” said Morrison, the Big 12 pitcher of the year who is 9-4.
The Frogs, playing in front of a post-season record crowd of 5,620, had momentum going into the ninth. Pinch hitter Connor Castellano jumped on the first pitch from closer Eric Karch and hit a scorcher to the right side. Moyer – that man again – dove to knock it down and make the play at first.
“That play will go unnoticed but if you look back on it you’ll see how big a play,” Rodriguez said. “That was humongous, getting the leadoff guy out.
“It’s a little surreal to be in this position. … Winner take all, what more can you ask for?”