TCU baseball beats Virginia, remains alive at College World Series

TCU starter Sam Stoutenborough picks up the win facing Virginia in the College World Series on June 18, 2023. (Photo courtesy of

By Charles Baggarly

OMAHA – The Horned Frogs’ season is still alive.

Unlike the opening game of the College World Series, TCU held onto a lead and defeated Virginia 4-3 on Sunday. Sam Stoutenborough’s strong start provided the Frogs with an opportunity, and the offense did just enough to stay ahead.

TCU will face the loser of Sunday night’s Oral Roberts-Florida game at 1 p.m. Tuesday.

“I think everybody was wondering what, after the punch to the gut on Friday, what this team — how they were going to respond,” head coach Kirk Saarloos said. “And I didn’t have any questions about how they were going to respond. I could see it on the bus. I could see it on Saturday at our practice. And it says a lot about who they are as kids and just being resilient.”

Centerfielder Elijah Nunez, catcher Karson Bowen, shortstop Anthony Silva and right fielder Austin Davis tallied multi-hit games. First baseman Cole Fontenelle recorded a team-high two RBIs.

Just enough offense

The Horned Frogs set up what could’ve been a big first inning with leadoff hits from Nunez and Bowen. After a strikeout from Brayden Taylor, they settled for a sacrifice fly from Fontenelle.

Davis said he “knew it was go time” when Nunez secured a double to start the ballgame.

“That’s what [Nunez] has been doing all year,” Davis said.

Associate head coach TJ Bruce’s offense had another opportunity after a two-out double from left fielder Logan Maxwell and an infield single from Davis. The West Virginia transfer attempted to steal second base and would’ve been safe; he hesitated and was thrown out to end the threat.

“It was a little bit of miscommunication between me and the first base coach,” Davis said. “But it’s all good now. We’re on top.”

The Horned Frogs made up for the blunder in the third inning with base hits from Bowen and Taylor. Fontenelle was able to plate Bowen with a groundout to first, collecting his fifth RBI in the College World Series.

Taylor’s hit was the veteran third baseman’s first of the College World Series. Saarloos said facing elite left handed pitching creates difficult matchups for Taylor.

“There’s no secret in terms of scouting reports and all those types of things and where to play defenses,” Saarloos said. “And I thought he’s had some good at-bats and hasn’t had anything to show for it. The same exact line drive that he hit that he got his double on. Oral Roberts caught it. Same exact play.”

Both teams made no offensive progress until the sixth inning; Nunez plated Silva with his second hit of the ballgame, a two-out single to right center field. Silva singled and Davis walked to set up the scoring opportunity.

Another starting pitching duel

Stoutenborough had a rough start to the ballgame, allowing hits to Griff O’Ferrall and  Ethan O’Donnell, the first two batters faced. Jake Gelof moved a runner home.

After, Stoutenborough settled in and retired 12 consecutive batters. The graduate transfer pitcher kept the Horned Frogs in the game; Stoutenborough was pulled with two runners on in the fifth inning and Garrett Wright took over, forcing a ground out to end the threat.

Virginia head coach Brian O’Connor said Stoutenborough did a good job.

“Our approach was not great against [Stoutenborough],” O’Connor said. “But he did a nice job of mixing his off-speed pitches and held us down.”

Stoutenborough allowed two hits and one earned run, all of which was in the first inning. He had two walks and a three strikeouts in 64 total pitches.

Saarloos said Stoutenborough showed experience, something you can’t teach, and mentioned he trusted his off speed pitching; Saarloos added “not trying to do too much” is pitching 101.

“I thought [Stoutenborough] did a great job with his changeup and his curveball and then being able to sneak the fastball by some guys when he needed to,” Saarloos said. “But ultimately came down to just his poise and presence that he’s shown really the whole year, but especially down the back stretch this season.”

Virginia starter Connelly Early had a similar start to Stoutenborough, allowing a run in the first inning after two leadoff base hits. The Horned Frogs made Early work for outs by extending at bats; Early allowed another run in the third inning and was pulled after the fifth with 101 total pitches.

“I thought Connelly early gave us a nice start,” O’Connor said. “[TCU] had a good approach against him in the first inning, probably as good as we’ve seen all year. That’s a credit to them. He grinded, kept us in the game, gave us a chance to win.”

Davis said the goal facing Early was to make the starter work for outs.

“It was to grind out at-bats and wait til you get your pitch,” Davis said. “And if you don’t get your pitch just foul it off.”

The closing moments

Ethan Anderson cut the Frogs’ lead with a solo home run to left field. Wright responded with two strikeouts and ended the inning with a forced groundout to third base.

Wright said when he saw success when he located his slider.

“I trusted [the slider] every single time,” Wright said. “And I could land it when I wanted to and I could bury it when I could.”

Davis provided some insurance with an RBI double, reaching safely for the fourth time in the contest. In a pitching oriented ballgame, the Frogs increased their slim lead.

The Cavaliers quickly creeped back into striking distance. Wright allowed a leadoff single to Harrison Didawick, who stole second. After a fly ball moved Didawick to third, Ben Abeldt took over for Wright; the freshman left-hander recorded two outs to end the inning but couldn’t prevent Didawick from scoring.

TCU failed to increase its lead in the ninth inning. Abeldt made his way back out to close the game and secured two outs. After a single from  Casey Saucke and an error from Nunez, the Cavaliers had the tying run in scoring position.

A base hit could’ve tied the ballgame; Abeldt struck out Anthony Stephan, eliminating Virginia from the College World Series.

Saarloos said Abeldt, who pitched on Friday, recovers quickly from outings due to his arm slot. Saarloos said the left handed option was useful against Virginia’s lineup.

“And that’s why [Abeldt] was in there,” Saarloos said. “And [Abeldt] did an awesome job in terms of finishing the game.”