2016 College World Series Day 4: Big 12 teams continue dominant run in Omaha
Game 7: No. 5 Texas Tech 3, No. 1 Florida 2.
Texas Tech left fielder Tyler Neslony nearly saved the game for the Red Raiders in the ninth before Luken Baker’s heroics helped TCU advance to the winner’s bracket. In Tuesday’s elimination game against top-seeded Florida, Neslony’s ninth inning contributions were not overshadowed.
The senior from Corpus Christi, Texas forced an errant throw to third and trotted home for an insurance run in the top of the inning, then launched a rocket from the edge of the warning track in the left field corner to nail Florida’s Jonathan India at the bag trying to stretch a two-out single into a double. Red Raider second baseman Michael Davis dropped down the tag to finish off a 3-2 win that kept Texas Tech’s season alive, and eliminated the top-ranked Gators from the 2016 College World Series.
“The hustle play by Jon there at the end, I would say that that’s what you need to do, 100 out of 100 times,” Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “[Neslony] just made a hell of a throw — it was a perfect throw.”
The Red Raiders (47-19) grabbed the lead in the top of the fourth inning when Florida right-hander Alex Faedo left a ball over the plate against Eric Gutierrez, Texas Tech’s home run leader, with a runner on base and two outs. Gutierrez, the 2016 Big 12 Conference Player of the Year, made Faedo pay for the mistake by depositing it onto the bullpen mound behind the left field wall. It was the 13th home run of the season for Gutierrez and it gave the Red Raiders a 2-0 lead.
“That was really big,” the senior out of Mission, Texas said. “Just to put my team on the board and good momentum in the game.”
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For most of the game the two runs appeared to be more than enough run support for freshman starting pitcher Davis Martin. The Texas Tech right-hander generated 12 of his 21 outs on the ground, and only three outs were recorded by his outfielders over the course of his seven innings of scoreless baseball. He also struck out three hitters while scattering three hits and three walks to improve to 10-1 on the season.
“Definitely, Davis kind of set the tone by pitching with his tempo like he does, and guys went out and made some plays behind him,” Texas Tech head coach Tim Tadlock said.
His counterpart Alex Faedo wasn’t too far behind Davis aside from the one mistake. The Florida sophomore right-hander was over-powering for seven and 2/3 innings. He scattered seven hits and allowed his only runs of the game on the home run hit by Gutierrez. He also struck out nine batters.
“I thought Alex pitched great. I really do,” O’Sullivan said. “Just one mistake, unfortunately in a one-run game it tends to get magnified. But he pitched great. That’s probably as good as he’s pitched all year long.”
Florida (52-16) mounted a rally in the ninth when first baseman Peter Alonso launched a two-run shot onto the concourse in left field for his 14th home run of the season. But, that was all the Gators would muster in the end as Neslony’s insurance run in the top half made the difference before his game-ending assist from the edge of the warning track in left field helped the Red Raiders stave off elimination.
“I think it means a lot,” Tadlock said of getting the program’s first win at the College World Series. “But we didn’t come to just win one game. I mean, we really came to try to compete to win the whole deal. We had a tough game the other day on Sunday, had a tough break, but I really think these guys like playing.”
“It’s funny, they like playing through the weekend if we can. If we get the breaks and we’re fortunate to do that they probably would rather do that than have all the days off.”
Game 7 Highlights
Top of the 4th | Texas Tech 2, Florida 0 |: Gator starting pitcher Alex Faedo was one out away from leaving a man on third and keeping the game scoreless heading to the bottom half of the fourth. Texas Tech slugger, and Big 12 Player of the Year, Eric Gutierrez ruined those plans when he turned on an 0-1 fastball and planted it on the mound in the left field bullpen to give the Red Raiders the lead.
Top of the 9th | Texas Tech 3, Florida 0 |: The Red Raiders added the always important insurance run in the final inning. Speedster Cory Raley led things off by beating out an infield hit. He was forced out on a fielder’s choice to second base, but it kept the runner on base. With one out, Gutierrez grounded to third, but Jonathan India bounced the throw to first and it rolled far enough away from first baseman Peter Alonso to allow the runners to try for an extra base. As Texas Tech’s Tyler Neslony was hustling to third, Alonso picked up the ball and threw a hopper to third. It got away from India and rolled towards the Florida dugout, allowing Neslony to score and give the Red Raiders a three-run lead.
Bottom of the 9th | Texas Tech 3, Florida 2 |: Needing a comeback to keep their 50-plus-win season alive, the Gators started a rally with a lead off single to center field by two-hole hitter Buddy Reed, then cut the deficit to one run six pitches later when Peter Alonso blasted a two-run shot onto the concourse in left field. One of the hardest hit ball in TD Ameritrade Park history had the Florida dugout fired up for the first time all day, but it proved to be too little too late.
Game 8: TCU 6, Coastal Carolina 1.
Freshman two-star Luken Baker ripped a solo home run over the right field fence in the top of the second inning and TCU never looked back, topping Coastal Carolina, 6-1, to move into the driver’s seat in Bracket Two, one win away from the College World Series Finals.
Baker, who hit the go-ahead three-run homer in the ninth inning two days ago against Texas Tech, needed to see only two pitches on Tuesday night before leaving the yard to again put TCU in front for good.
On the mound, junior right-hander Brian Howard kept the dangerous Coastal Carolina offense out of sync. He scattered six hits, three walks, and allowed only one run while striking out seven hitters over his five and 2/3 innings of work. His head coach praised him for getting the job done on a night when 6-foot-9 righty wasn’t necessarily in top form.
“A sign of a good pitcher is to win when you don’t have your best stuff,” TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “He had his best stuff against Texas A&M, and Arizona State I think before that. He didn’t have his best stuff tonight. I thought he was wild in the strike zone. His fastball was kind of — when he was trying to throw it away, he threw it in; when he was trying to throw it in, he threw it away, and against that club you’ll be out of the game quick.”
“His curveball was just enough to keep him off balance, and he made a few good pitches when he had to make pitches with guys on base. That’s a sign of a good pitcher. Everybody is going to win when you have your best stuff, and everybody is going to lose when you have your worst. When you’re just okay, that separates the pitcher. That separates the good ones from the average ones.”
TCU scored two runs in the fifth and ninth innings to help seal the victory, thanks in part to a couple miscues in the field by the Chanticleers. After playing a nearly perfect game on the mound and in the field in the 2-1 win over Florida, head coach Gary Gilmore is still waiting for his club to show their true colors offensively.
“I don’t think we hit one or two really hard line drives off [Howard] all night long,” Gilmore said. “The only inning we got two hits off him in an inning was an inning that we had a huge base-running blunder that kept us from scoring. That would have tied the ballgame.”
“My frustration is even though we won a game, we had to have a heroic pitching effort to get it done. We’re a better team than what we’ve shown with base running and some other things, especially defensively tonight. Everything we did good the other night we short-circuited tonight. Hopefully we can come back Thursday and compete and show everybody how we actually got here.”
With the win, TCU improves to 49-16 overall, while Coastal Carolina falls to 50-17. The Horned Frogs will now have two days off before returning to the field for a 7:05 p.m. (CST) game against the winner of Thursday’s elimination game between Texas Tech and Coastal Carolina. First pitch between the Red Raiders and Chanticleers is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. (CST).
Game 8 Highlights
Top of the 2nd | TCU 1, Coastal Carolina 0 |: Horned Frogs freshman phenom Luken Baker picked up right where he left off the day before after sending his club to the winner’s bracket with a go-ahead three-run shot in the ninth inning against Texas Tech. The 6-foot-4-inch 265-pound slugger gave his team a 1-0 lead, going the opposite way for a solo shot over the right field fence for his 11th home run of the season.
Top of the 5th | TCU 3, Coastal Carolina 0 |: Thanks to some patience at the plate, some hustle down the line, and a Coastal Carolina throwing error, TCU tacked on a pair of runs despite the only hit being a single to left field to lead off the inning. Freshman Josh Watson started it off with the base hit, then moved to third when Coastal Carolina third baseman Zach Remillard fielded a grounder and short-armed a throw to second that ended up bouncing into right-center field to put men on the corners with no outs. A five-pitch walk to Ryan Merrill loaded the bases, then a four-pitch walk to Austen Wade brought home the first run of the frame. The second came in to score on a grounder to third base by Cam Warner. Coastal Carolina had a chance to limit the damage to one run if they could turn two on the play, but Warner beat the throw to first to break it up and allow the run to score.
Top of the 6th | TCU 4, Coastal Carolina 0 |: Luken Baker’s third hit of the game resulted in another run for the Horned Frogs. Following his single to lead off the sixth, Elliot Barzilli reach on a base hit to left field, and Josh Watson drew a five-pitch walk to load the bases with nobody out. Dane Steinhagen grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to erase most of the threat, but Baker made it home safely on the play to extend the lead.
Bottom of the 6th | TCU 4, Coastal Carolina 1 |: The Chanticleers got a couple big hits in the bottom half of the sixth to show some signs of life. Shortstop Michael Paez led off with a double down the left field line, then came home to score on a big two-out base hit by G.K. Young to trim the Horned Frogs’ lead down to three. The two-out hit was Young’s 66th run batted in this season.
Top of the 9th | TCU 6, Coastal Carolina 1 |: Just in case the Chanticleers had any crazy ideas about stunning ninth-inning comeback, the Horned Frogs tacked on a couple runs to put the game out of reach. First baseman Michael Landestoy drove in the first run and scored the other. After Ryan Merrill singled with one out, Landestoy smacked a triple to the gap in right-center field to bring Merrill around to score from first. Another throwing error by Zach Remillard at third base on a ground ball off the bat of Austen Wade allowed Landestoy to score easily to make it 6-1, Horned Frogs, and seal the victory heading to the bottom of the ninth.
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