June 13, 2010

By Matt Rybaltowski
Special to NCAA.com

Austin, Texas - As run after run piled up in Saturday's 14-1 defeat to Texas, TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle noticed a look of resignation in his players' faces that he had never seen before.

In the team hotel afterwards, he told them if they wanted to go to Omaha for the College World Series, they would have to fight every time they stepped in the batters' box. The message resonated well, as Horned Frogs pitcher Kyle Winkler battled out of several jams and TCU hit two late home runs to eliminate Texas, 4-1, in Game 3 of an NCAA Division I baseball Super Regional.

With the victory, TCU (51-12) earned its first trip to the College World Series in school history. The Horned Frogs will play Florida State (47-18), which beat Vanderbilt in a Super Regional, in the first round of the CWS.

"This is a historic day for TCU," Schlossnagle said. "When I came to TCU seven years ago this is the day you dream about."

The Horned Frogs led 1-0 in the bottom of the sixth inning when impenetrable closer Chance Ruffin entered the game. Before Sunday's decisive matchup, Ruffin sported an era of 0.73 and had allowed just four earned runs in his last 58.2 innings pitched. The reliever, though, surrendered two home runs, including a two-run shot by center fielder Aaron Schultz in the seventh on a hanging slider.

"Chance Ruffin has great, great stuff," Schultz said. "I was just looking for him to make a mistake with his slider and he did. I (just) put a really good swing on it." On a day when the Horned Frogs made several sparkling plays on defense, Schultz followed his home run with perhaps the best of them. Texas leadoff hitter Tant Shepherd appeared to have connected on an extra-base hit with a fly ball to the warning track when Schultz tracked it down and robbed him with an over-the-shoulder grab.

"I was so pumped up from that home run," Schultz said. "I got a good jump on it and felt like I was flying out there."

TCU scored the game's first run in the bottom of the fifth on a single by Jason Coats that scored Taylor Featherston. When the shortstop tried to stretch a single into a double to open the inning, the throw by Texas right fielder Kevin Keyes towards the first base side of the bag missed second baseman Connor Rowe and rolled towards the dugout. Featherston advanced to third with no outs.

Texas (50-13) had squandered numerous chances up until that point. The Longhorns stranded five runners in scoring position through the first five innings and left runners on third in the first, third and fourth innings. Winkler struck out Connor Rowe with a slider in the dirt to end the top half of the fourth and Russell Moldenhauer with a changeup to end the Longhorns' bid for the lead in the fifth. "What we saw was a game between two evenly matched teams," Texas coach Augie Garrido said. "The separation could come (down) to the lack of timely hits. We took quality at-bats, it wasn't like we were swinging at balls all over the place. "

TCU heads to Omaha with a boatload of confidence after knocking out the No.2 seeded Longhorns. Schlossnagle said his team, which is ranked in the top 10 in four separate polls, has the best pitching and best hitting he's seen since he came to the program.

"Going to Omaha is incredibly hard, to do it here and against the greatest coach in the history of our sport is an honor," Schlossnagle said. "I was going to be sick if this team (didn't) play in Omaha because we were playing another team that belongs in Omaha."