FORT WORTH — In the end, the game was almost too big for the scoreboard. Through 16 innings, Texas Christian and Texas A&M went after each other in ways that went from a bull fight to a simply clubbing. In the end, it wasn’t the dramatic big hit, but, almost sadly, an error, that put an end to things.
The two teams scattered runs through the initial nine innings, with TCU taking what seemed to be a comfortable 4-1 lead before A&M center fielder Nick Banks homered in the top of the eighth and, in a quirk, scored two runs in the top of the ninth without actually getting a hit triggered the cascade of extra innings, all the way to the drama of the 16th.
A tougher bouncer down the third base line, a throw that, as TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle said, couldn’t be practiced for, went wide of the catcher, and the Horned Frogs had their trip to Omaha. The Aggies had 50 wins and a sting they said would take a while to get over.
“In 25 years of coaching, that’s the best baseball game I’ve ever been a part of,” said Schlossnagle, whose team heads to Omaha for the third time in six years . “I’m wary of celebrating or saying too much great about our team for fear of diminishing the effort of Texas A&M. Unbelievable competition. Classic baseball game. One of the best of all time.”
For the Aggies, the end, despite the grandeur of the game, it was still the end of their season, leaving nothing more than an early morning bus ride back to College Station.
“It just breaks my heart that it had to end the way it did,” said A&M head coach Rob Childress. “All I can do is tell them how proud I am of them, how much I love them, and how thankful I am for all that they gave each other throughout the course of the year. It’s as good a team as I’ve been part of in a long, long time.”
Heart breaking might be short selling the back and forth effort that Aggie reliever Ryan Hendrix finished the final 4.2 innings of, throwing 99 pitches. He was the last Aggie pitcher to go to the line, with five Aggie pitchers making appearances and holding TCU to 11 hits through the 16 innings.
“I have TCU across my jersey but I’m a college baseball fan, too,” said Schlossnagle. “Just to see the competition between two great teams. Part of it was incredibly enjoyable and part of it was a beating. Both at the same time.”
TCU, who used seven pitchers through their 16 innings held A&M to nine hits and often had Aggie batters off balance while keeping the tie intact, ringing up 25 strikeouts in the process.
“TCU’s a good hitting team,” said Hendrix, still masked in a thousand yard stare from the shock of what had happened on the field. “I tried to use my curveball a lot to get them of balance, it helped me out a lot. I was just throwing what ever I could to get guys out.”
His final line of five strikeouts, four hits, and seven walks were overshadowed by a moment in the 14th, when a sharp liner struck him flush in the chest. While the result was a rare 1-3-2 runner out at home for TCU, Hendrix stayed in the game.
“I felt it for a little bit, but after a while it went away when I started throwing on the mound,” said Hendrix. “I was telling coach each inning I didn’t want to come out.”
The scope of the game, wide as it was, had yet to reach the A&M players.
“A loss is a loss in my mind, no matter if it’s a classic or a regular nine inning game,” said A&M catcher Michael Barash, who caught every inning of the Super Regionals for the Aggies. “This one’s gonna sting because we have to hang on to this one for a while. It’s going to be a long summer trying to grind it out. We’re gonna remember this feeling.”