OMAHA, Neb. — A four-run lead in an elimination game had dwindled down to one, and the tying run was in scoring position for the 2017 Dick Howser Trophy winner.
It's going to take a whole lot more than that to rattle TCU relief ace Sean Wymer.
Wymer struck out Brendan McKay on three pitches to escape that jam, then proceeded to throw four more innings of shutout baseball to preserve TCU's 4-3, season-saving victory over Louisville.
Even in the postgame press conference, he didn't seem to dial down his intensity and focus a notch. Whether it was Louisville hitters or prying media, there was simply no getting to Wymer on Thursday.
"I treat it all the same," Wymer said of the assignment against McKay. "Throwing quality strikes, try to get the strikeout in that moment. But I treat it the same as any other batter, throw quality strikes."It shouldn't come as a huge shock that Wymer was keeping Cardinal after Cardinal off the basepaths. After all, there are good reasons why coach Jim Schlossnagle brought him into that situation — such as his 2.10 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 55.2 innings. But the most potent right arms in the world aren't going to save you if the pitcher they're attached to gets overwhelmed by the moment. Luckily for TCU, that nervous feeling just isn't in Wymer's DNA.
"His poise this season is like no other. He's at his best all the time," TCU outfielder Austen Wade said. "I can't remember a time when Sean felt flustered on the mound. He's one-sided in emotion; he's always intense."
The Flower Mound, Texas, native possesses three above-average pitches, a major luxury for a reliever when oftentimes only one or two are required. The mixture of mid-90s fastball and low-80s curveball and changeup make him tough to deal with even after more than one trip through the lineup. But more than anything, putting the first pitch of the at-bat right where he wanted it was what made Wymer so special Thursday.
"He just commanded the zone really well," McKay said. "He could get ahead with pitcher's pitches — strikes that hitters don't want to swing at or just are well located and a hitter can't pull the trigger on it."
T-C-U!! pic.twitter.com/oMD9AE8REa— NCAA Baseball (@NCAACWS) June 23, 2017
TCU first baseman Connor Wanhanen knows Wymer as well as anyone, overlapping three years with him at Flower Mound High School and the last two in Fort Worth. But even he can have a hard time believing what Wymer is able to accomplish on the mound, especially in the biggest spots.
"Just watching him out there, it's like, honestly, just a machine at work," he said. "It's been awesome to see him grow up."
Wymer was credited with the win by scorer's decision due to starter Nick Lodolo failing to last the required five innings. He struck out five of the 14 batters he faced in an outing that tied his second-longest of the season.
Schlossnagle plans to convert Wymer into a starting pitcher for his junior season, but for now, he's enjoying the luxury of having one of the nastiest relief pitchers in the nation.
"He's been so consistent," the 14th-year coach said. "He's a guy that can pitch in any role."
Schlossnagle admitted that his reliever is probably done unless TCU makes it to the championship series after throwing 57 pitches against Louisville. With the two must-win games coming with no days off, it would likely just be too much to expect that short turnaround.
But if the Horned Frogs can pull it off against Florida and beat the Gators twice, Wymer should be good to go in what would be TCU's first-ever championship appearance. And you can be sure that he'll be ready for the moment.