OMAHA, Neb. – On day two, not only did fans get a pair of great college baseball games, but were also treated to some amazing performances highlighted by Preston Morrison’s 10 strikeouts in TCU’s 3-2 win over Texas Tech and Mike Papi’s walk-off hit for Virginia that beat Ole Miss 2-1 at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha.
The Horned Frogs won on a game-winning hit by Boomer White that was set up by a crucial at bat by Cody Jones while Nathan Kirby’s one-hit effort kept the Cavaliers in position to win.
In Game 3, TCU and Texas Tech were locked in a pitching duel between Red Raiders’ starter Chris Sadberry and the Horned Frogs’ Preston Morrison. The game would be decided in the eighth when both coaches opted for their closers with the lead in hand only to see them give up the lead.
TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle decided to go to stopper Riley Ferrell with one out and one on in the eighth after Morrison had retired nine straight Red Raiders before allowing the one-out single. Ferrell would give up the lead on back-to-back hits, the second being a well-hit, two-run triple to the wall by Tyler Neslony as Texas Tech took the 2-1 lead.
“I was actually thinking about starting off the inning with him. I felt like as soon as the game became in question I’m going to our guy whether it’s a right or left-handed hitter,” said Schlossnagle, “and you’ve got to credit Lyons for doing a heck of a job. Neslony stayed on a breaking ball. You tip your cap to them.”
With the lead in hand, Texas Tech head coach Tim Tadlock chose to send out closer Jonny Drozd to start the bottom of the eighth even though Sadberry had retired seven consecutive Horned Frogs. Drozd would also lose the lead after a pair of infield singles tied the game to set up White’s game-winning hit.
Tadlock said, “Chris could’ve gone another inning, no doubt about it,” but felt that Drozd was the better option for the team and pointed out that baseball, “is an unpredictable game, a game of inches,” in regard to Drozd’s blown save.
In Game 4, another pitching battle shaped up as Ole Miss starter Chris Ellis and Virginia ace Nathan Kirby locked up in another 1-0 game heading into the eighth inning. The eighth inning would be pivotal but the big pitching decision would come in the ninth as Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco decided to pitch to Mike Papi with the winning run on second.
Papi would deliver with a walk-off hit on a 3-2 pitch from Rebels’ closer Aaron Greenwood. “He’s been our guy,” said Bianco, “we [walked Papi] last time and McCarthy was able to get a base hit…Aaron was close, was just a pitch away from getting out of it. Mike did a good job of staying on that ball.”
Hitters of the Day
Virginia’s Mike Papi had two hits, including the walk-off hit for the Cavaliers’ win. O’Connor said, “We saved it for the dramatic there at the ninth with Irving drawing the walk and then Papi getting the big, clutch, two-out, two-strike hit.”
Papi said, “I was just looking for a pitch in the middle of the plate…I was hoping and praying it’d fall somewhere out there.”
TCU lead-off man Cody Jones got two hits that led to two White RBI, including the game-winner after an at bat that was a true battle with Red Raiders’ closer Drozd. “Cody’s at bat was the at bat of the inning,” said Schlossnagle, “just to fight off pitches, you know Drozd has been so good for them all year long…just to put a ball in play and let his legs do the rest was huge.”
Jones said he tried to, “Stay as calm as I could and take as many deep breaths as I could…once I got down two strikes I had to sit back and fight and try to put a ball in play and try to let my legs work.”
Pitchers of the Day
TCU’s Preston Morrison threw 7.1 innings and allowed an earned run on five hits and two walks with 10 strikeouts and left the game with one out and one on in the eighth inning. “Preston was outstanding. Really, really proud of him, especially since really the one bad outing he has had in his college career was against Tech in the first weekend of conference play,” said Schlossnagle.
“Today was more of a typical outing for me, my slider was on point. I was able to locate my fastball when I needed to and I threw a couple of change-ups for a couple of outs,” said Morrison, “I just had more confidence and I was able to make my pitches when I needed to.”
Virginia southpaw Nathan Kirby left in the eighth with a one-hitter but allowed an earned run on three walks with four strikeouts. “I thought Nathan Kirby was tremendous tonight,” said Cavaliers’ head coach Brian O’Connor, “Certainly, in the eighth inning, he probably wants those walks back, but he did a great job of getting us to the eighth inning.”
Kirby said, “My plan was just to make them beat me and I thought I did a good job in that.”