A wild pitch in the bottom of the ninth gave TCU a late 2-1 victory as well as their sixth consecutive Mountain West Conference regular season championship as Nick Frey and the Horned Frogs took the series against the Utah Utes on Sunday afternoon.
With four games left in the season, TCU moved closer to securing an opportunity to host a regional by taking the series against the second place Utes.
Stefan Crichton came in to close out the game in the ninth inning and shut down the Utes, giving TCU a chance to win the game in the final frame. With Jerome Pena up to bat, Jason Coats came around to score the winning run. Catcher Jason Elander said that the team was simply trying to finish the season “not game by game, but pitch by pitch.” That attitude has led the Frogs to a 17-3 record in conference.
The game was a defensive battle from start to finish, with big plays in the field contributing to the low offensive output. A double play with two on and no outs in the second allowed Nick Frey to escape the inning without any damage. The defense came up big again in the fourth when CJ Cron, Utah’s top slugger, hit into a double play. Containing Cron’s bat was a major necessity for the Frog’s success over the weekend and the pitching staff was largely able to keep his hits on the ground throughout the series. The double play turned out to be huge because the next batter, Shaun Cooper, put Utah on the board first with a solo home run that would have otherwise gone for two. Frey was able to retire the next batter and the fourth inning ended with Utah leading 1-0.
In the bottom of the fifth, Jerome Pena came within feet of hitting a homerun but was instead forced to settle for a double. Kyle Von Tungeln then scored him with a lazy grounder that skipped under the second baseman’s mitt. The run tied the game at one after five.
Leading off to start the sixth inning, Beltran doubled and Frey intentionally walked Cron to put runners on first and second with no outs. However, Frey continued his stellar performance, striking out the next two batters and ending the inning with a grounder back to the pitcher. The inning would be the last for Frey, who started the season as a redshirt but was called in midseason to provide the beleaguered staff with some much-needed depth. Trent Appleby came in to start the seventh, extending his record of most career pitching appearances for TCU. He received some help from Brance Rivera, who mad a diving catch in shallow right to rob a single.
The game remained tied until the ninth inning, when Crichton came in for TCU and Ben Mordini came in for Joe Pond out of the Utah bullpen. Coats led off with a leadoff walk. Elander and Weik struck out before Featherston came up with a huge single up the middle that moved Coats to third. With runners on first and third and two outs, Pena stepped up to bat. However, the game ended with no effort on his part when a wild pitch walked in the winning run, sealing the conference championship.
The win brings the Frogs to 37-15 overall and 17-3 in the conference. TCU has one home game left against Oral Roberts on Tuesday, then the squad hits the road one last time to New Mexico before the MWC Tournament begins in San Diego on May 24.