OMAHA, Neb. -- The clock struck midnight at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha. And that’s all it took for Virginia to beat TCU in the 15th inning 3-2 in a game that matched the longest game in College World Series history.
Virginia’s Thomas Woodruff came in as a pinch runner after Nate Irving led off the bottom of the 15th with a long ground-rule double to leftfield. Woodruff scored the game-winning run on Sunday against Ole Miss for just his third run of the season. When Daniel Pinero lifted the 399th pitch of the night to centerfield with Woodruff on third and one out, he came in to score his fourth. In two CWS games, he doubled his season’s total. It was that kind of night in Omaha.“You've got to find a break in this World Series these days, and it's just they're just tough to win, and I'm just really proud of our guys that we found a way,” Virginia head coach Brian O’Connor said.
In the longest game at the CWS since 1970, when Southern California beat Arizona State 2-1 in 15, the crowd of 24,285 was treated to just about everything, including TCU’s Cody Jones matching a CWS record with seven at bats. Unfortunately, Jones struck out five times, the first time a player has done that since Georgia’s Matt Cerione in 2008. On the flip side, TCU first baseman Kevin Cron had 23 putouts to break the CWS single-game record.
Virginia’s bullpen threw eight innings and allowed only three hits, including closer Nick Howard who worked a season-high 4.0 innings while striking out six and allowing just one hit. Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, he was locked in a duel with TCU’s star closer Riley Ferrell. TCU’s equivalent matched Howard for a season-high 4.0 innings and also allowed only one hit and struck out four.
This after TCU’s Brandon Finnegan went 8.0 innings and Virginia’s Brandon Waddell went a solid 7.0 frames, each giving up just one earned run. UVa.’s Artie Lewicki picked up his second win in as many games at the CWS, working the last two innings without allowing a TCU baserunner.
The theme of power arms in the 2014 College World Series continued.
“Premium arms,” TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “It's very impressive by Howard. Very impressive by Ferrell. Very impressive by Teakell. Very impressive by Lewicki.”
“Everybody we brought out of the pen did a nice job,” O’Connor said. “We threw everything we had at them -- Howard and Mayberry and Lewicki.”
Another theme of the 2014 NCAA tournament? One-run games. TCU-Virginia extended the postseason record to 44 for a single season.
Neither team could get much going in the extra frames. And even when they did string some things together, they were able to wiggle out. TCU’s best chance came in the 12th, when Dylan Fitzgerald walked to lead off and two batters later, Kyle Bacak singled with Fitzgerald on the move. Virginia centerfielder Brandon Downes fired to third to nail him for the second out. It was Downes’ first outfield assist of the season.
Virginia didn’t have any of those chances once the ninth inning ended. TCU retired all 15 batters until Irving’s double in the 15th. Irving, the Cavs’ catcher and nine-hole hitter with just one home run, hit one of the farthest balls hit in this CWS. A CWS in which, eight games in, there has still not been a home run. It took one hop over Boomer Whiting’s glove and into the UVa bullpen.
“[Irving’s] gotten so many big hits in his three years here,” O’Connor said. “For him to drive a ball over the leftfielder's head, I didn't know if anybody was going to be able to do that on either ballclub tonight. But fortunately he got it up enough, and he must have squared it up really, really good to hit it out there.”
The third-base dugout found energy it hadn’t seen in hours.
“I think that was our break,” Virginia’s Brendan Cogswell said. “We've been battling for the six innings after the ninth inning, and for Irving to get a ball over the leftfielder's head, we knew we had to take advantage of that."
Pinero, a freshman, driving in the winning run was only fitting. Typically sure-handed at shortstop with just seven errors this season, he’d made two errors earlier in the game, including one that allowed TCU to score its second run.
After taking ball one from TCU’s Trey Teakell, Virginia put on a safety squeeze with Woodruff standing on third. He fouled it off. Then came ball two. Once again, Pinero was asked to bunt. And again, he wasted the pitch by fouling it away.
Sometimes in this game, a plan can go awry before a better result. With two strikes, Pinero wasn’t going to be bunting, and instead he hit Teakell’s breaking ball to center -- far enough to score Woodruff after it settled in Jones’ glove. Four hours and 51 minutes later, the Cavs are 2-0 with two walk-off wins. Two more than the CWS had in 2013.
“Coach [Kevin McMullan] put the bunt sign down, and I missed twice, two curveballs,” Pinero said. “Then I just went into a two‑strike approach kind of, and he threw me another curveball, and I just stayed back and put it in the air and got the job done.”
And the win is all that matters, especially now that it gives the Cavs three days off. After playing nearly two full games on Tuesday, they’ll take it.