So CloseToJumping texts me during the 4th inning of the game. He’s in New York about to watch Rent for the umpteenth time, and he’s listening to the radio broadcast. While Craig Way has lost himself in mascot minutiae, Bill Little is calling out Augie Garrido’s small ball ‘critics.’ He went uncharacteristically silent after TCU tied it up on their third home run, but is there any question what his next column will be about? I mean aside from quotes from Mack Brown, Carl Sandburg and Jim Varney?
Seven sacrifice bunts. Seven. A new NCAA record. The lazy fan will look at the seven bunts and ten runs scored and see causation. But it was the Texas hitting that was the difference, not the sacrifices. TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle talked about it after the game. "People forget that they get the bunt over, and then somebody gets a hit," he said. "A clutch hit. A two out hit. I think the bunt is a big part of that, but the clutch hitting is just as big."
A good team will respond when the opponent scores, and Texas did that last night. Every time TCU scored, Texas answered. As Garrido said after the game, "Only quality teams respond instinctively like that." And Texas certainly looked the part last night. They looked like a poised and veteran team. You would have never guessed that the majority of this team has never even been in a Super Regional before.
TCU started true freshman Kyle Winkler, and he struggled from the start. Nerves? I’m sure he’ll say it wasn’t, but he’d never been in a situation like that before. I really thought Texas would chase him in the first inning, but he survived with only two runs allowed. Michael Torres singled on a 3-1 pitch to lead off, and Travis Tucker then walked on five pitches trying to punt. No good deed goes unpunished, Travis. A sacrifice followed by Kevin Keyes’ double scored two runs. Brandon Loy then walked. So aside from the out we gave them on the sacrifice, every Texas runner has reached base. But Preston Clark and Cameron Rupp got anxious and made outs on 1-0 pitches. The freshman was struggling. Make him throw you strikes.
Texas got the first two runners on base again in the 4th after a single and an error (On a sacrifice! See! Pressure works!). Two more sacrifices scored a run, but you have to wonder what would have happened if Texas had swung away at that point.
Texas threatened to blow the game open in the sixth. Clark walked on four pitches, and then Rupp sacrificed him to second on the first pitch. A single, a fly out, another single and a double scored two runs. TCU then intentionally walked Brandon Belt. Keyes then struck out swinging on what would have been ball four, but I would have liked to have two guys up with the bases loaded rather than one. And the guy we sacrificed over to second would have scored anyway on the double.
Texas finally got their big inning in the sixth. Loy lead off with a single, and then Clark sacrificed him to second. Rupp hit an infield single, and then Loy scored on Connor Rowe’s safety squeeze. Russell Moldenhauer walked, and then Michael Torres hit a three run homer. Clearing the bases of anyone we would have sacrificed over. Torres went 4-5 with two home runs. He’s just lucky he never came up to bat with a man on first and nobody out.
Chance Ruffin was outstanding. Aside from three bad pitches that TCU hit out of the park (including one on an 0-2 pitch), he was always in command. TCU had more than one baserunner in an inning only twice, and when they got two on with one out in the ninth Ruffin struck out the next two batters to end it. He finished with seven strike outs and a complete game victory. And Austin Wood got one more day of rest.
The strength of this TCU pitching staff is their middle relief, but Texas hit them hard last night. That can’t help TCU’s confidence in a tight game. Now they have their backs to the wall having to win two straight in Austin.