OMAHA, Neb. -- TCU has been riding the “Energy Train” all postseason, and the locomotive showed no signs of letting Thursday’s CWS elimination game against LSU be its last stop.
The Horned Frogs beat the Tigers for the second time this week, this time by an 8-4 score to advance to a Friday matchup with Vanderbilt.
“We have this thing we started in the regional called the Energy Train,” Evan Skoug told NCAA.com at CWS media day last week. “A couple older guys started it, if a couple guys in the clubhouse were a little bit lacking in energy they’d get in your face and yell at you, get you pumped up for the game. Then during the game, it’s just full-out, everyone’s screaming, just trying to get that edge if we can from the dugout.”
It’s a mindset that TCU has needed several times in the postseason -- whether it was being down 8-1 in the eighth inning of the regional final against NC State and coming back to win 9-8 in 10 innings, or outlasting Texas A&M in a 16-inning Super Regional final. Now in Omaha, the Horned Frogs have played three games: two against the No. 2 national seed LSU, and one against defending champion Vanderbilt. In their two wins against the Tigers, the train has rolled to a combined 18 runs.
Examples of the idea were plentiful in Thursday’s win. There is Skoug pulling the train’s whistle as shown above after an RBI double that broke the game open in the fifth inning and gave TCU the lead for good. There’s the visible and audible “going crazy” in the dugout.
“You’ll hear the dugout go nuts, even guys in the bullpen, if you listen closely, they’ll be screaming it so you’ll hear them,” starting pitcher Mitchell Traver said last week.
And then there’s their aggressive style of play, especially on the base paths. LSU catcher Kade Scivicque threw out three potential stealers on Thursday night, but that didn’t turn down the Horned Frogs’ assertiveness.
Take this play the seventh inning. Cody Jones was on third and broke for home as soon as Evan Skoug made contact, despite the fact that that the ball was chopped back to the pitcher, who had no shot of catching Jones at home.
“Skoug did an excellent swinging pitch bunt, he really executed it well,” Jones said with a smile. “I was gone on the ball. Once it hit the ground, I was gone.”
That’s the kind of contagious energy play that has gotten TCU to this point of being two wins against Vanderbilt away from the CWS Finals.
“We try to have the best energy,” Jones said. “We feed off each other, that makes good vibes, and all of the guys on the field feed off of that. We just kind of go back and forth with each other. Everybody starts losing their mind a little bit, and it’s just fun.”
Jones, at the top of the lineup, has been making plays happen all week. He doesn’t have a hit yet at the CWS, but after an 0-for-2 night with two walks on Thursday, he has been on base eight times in 13 Omaha plate appearances.
“If the bat's not working for me, then I have to find another way on base,” Jones said. “That’s my job as a lead-off guy, to get on base, kind of set a tone, hopefully make the defense a little bit nervous, the pitchers thinking about me so they’re not thinking about the hitters, so our other guys can come up and knock in those runs.”
And knock in those runs they did. Skoug, the cleanup hitter, had two RBI on 2-for-4 at the plate. Dane Steinhagen finished 3-for-4 with three RBI from the five-hole.
The Horned Frogs also got the performance they needed from their pitching staff. After Traver was taken out in the fourth, righty reliever Trey Teakell retired all 13 batters he faced. He needed just 36 pitches to get through 4.1 innings.
“He's the most valuable pitcher that's been in our program maybe ever, since I -- in 12 years, the most valuable,” head coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “There's certainly been high draft picks and guys that have had great seasons. But in terms of a guy that can literally pitch in any role, Trey's the best.”
Not that TCU needed additional sources of energy, but they had one in the crowd. TD Ameritrade Park was sold out with an attendance of 26,803 fans decked in the purple of both teams, the third-best crowd in stadium history.
Now, TCU looks ahead to Vanderbilt, a team that it failed to score a run against on Tuesday. If the Energy Train plans on making more stops, a repeat of that is not to be expected.