Many tweets and messages came spilling in after TCU’s emotionally-draining 16-15 win Thursday over San Diego State. One popular sentiment had fans sharing something along these lines: “Frogs should never have given up 11 runs in the 9th."
The underlying attitude stuck to many of the comments was that the blown 10-run lead in the ninth Thursday somehow is so horrible that the Frogs’ eventual clutch comeback victory in the bottom of the ninth is tarnished.
To me, it was an overwhelming sign of supreme resiliency within the team that the Frogs came right back to snatch victory from a potential disaster.
Besides, to those voicing the obvious that TCU should never have blown a 10-run lead, I say: Thanks, Dr. Baseball Expert. There’s not a coach or player on the Horned Frogs’ roster that wouldn’t agree that the 11-run meltdown is unacceptable. But as TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said afterward, “Baseball is crazy."
Frogs’ third baseman Jantzen Witte called it ridiculous. Pitcher Andrew Mitchell challenged me to write a story that did the game justice. (I don’t think that’s possible unless my editors agreed to a six-page special section with huge charts, diagrams and in-depth analysis of about 15 different plays that deserved more attention than I could give them in a 140-line game story.)
I asked Schlossnagle if he’s ever been involved in a ninth inning such as Thursday.
“Never,” he said. “I’ve heard of it happening to other people. And as it was happening to us I was thinking, ‘I guess it’s our turn.’ How do you explain it?”
Others have complained that catcher Josh Elander should not have been rested before the ninth inning, as if Davy Wright, who replaced Elander, was the reason for the 11-run Aztec rally. Ridiculous. True, Wright has only been behind the plate a few times in his career. But the wild pitches were hardly his fault. He made a wild throw to first on a tapper in front of the plate, but that didn’t open the floodgates. Reliable bullpen staples Justin Scharf and Kevin Allen failed to do what they’ve done nearly every time out this season and allowed two runs apiece and failed to record an out. Trey Teakell, who for five innings pitched valiantly in relief of Brandon Finnegan’s three-inning start, allowed the first seven runs of the Aztec rally. Stefan Crichton, in his first relief appearance since last season, finally came in and got the final two outs.
Most importantly for TCU, Thursday’s win keeps the Frogs in the winner’s bracket with a loss to spare in the Mountain West tournament. A win Friday night vs. New Mexico and they’ll play for the tournament title Saturday night.
Fans obviously have a reason to be disgusted with the ninth-inning meltdown and are free to share their opinions with me 24/7 in e-mail and Twitter. I love it. Keep them coming. Just remember to enjoy a win as much as you disdain a blown lead.
After Thursday’s game Schlossnagle evoked TCU football coach Gary Patterson’s often-used mantra of “We just want to win by one point.”
“For the rest of the season the only thing that matters is having one more run than the other team,” Schlossnagle said. “There’s no such thing as style points. You just have to keep winning.”
You could call it an ugly win, many on Twitter have. I say it was anything but ugly. It was everything that’s great about college baseball, baseball in general, and being a sports fan.
-- Stefan Stevenson