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|GAME AT A
Point: UCLA cut TCU’s lead to 3-2 with a run in the seventh, and the Bruins threatened to take the lead, loading the bases with two outs. But TCU reliever Tyler Lockwood struck out Beau Amaral to end the threat, and TCU shortstop Taylor Featherston followed with a two-run homer in the bottom of the frame to give Lockwood some breathing room.
OMAHA—The Texas Christian baseball team was not impacted by the lightning and rain that disrupted the first weekend of the College World Series.
It’s a good thing.
TCU freshman lefthander Matt Purke doesn’t have much patience for hitters who dawdle on their way to the plate, so it’s difficult to imagine him sitting through a six-hour rain delay.
It’s easy to see why Bruins batters might have taken their time. They wanted to try something—anything—to get to Purke, who has been unbeatable this season.
“The guys decided that it was their job to take about 20 minutes to get from the dugout to the plate,” Purke said. “So I figured I was just going to have to wait . . . You just can’t get rattled with that stuff because teams are going to try to do that, try to break up your rhythm.”
It didn’t work.
Purke and reliever Tyler Lockwood combined on a four-hitter and were supported by home runs from Jerome Pena, Bryan Holaday and Taylor Featherson in TCU’s 6-2 win over UCLA on Friday at Rosenblatt Stadium.
The victory forces a decisive game Saturday between TCU (54-13) and UCLA (50-15), with the winner advancing to the best-of-three CWS Finals that begin Monday. UCLA coach John Savage said righthander Trevor Bauer will pitch for the Bruins. TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle was deciding between righthanders Kyle Winkler and Paul Gerrish, hoping one of them can approach the performance of Purke.
“I thought he did an outstanding job of pounding the zone, throwing strikes,” said UCLA coach John Savage. “There wasn’t a whole lot of strikeouts, but he did his job. And it seemed like we were hitting the ball on the ground.”
Purke (16-0) did not allow a ball out of the infield until the Bruins’ Dean Espy ended the fourth inning with a fly out to right field. Purke didn’t allow a baserunner until a two-out walk in the fourth to Blair Dunlap. He didn’t allow a hit until UCLA’s Chris Giovinazzo beat out a bunt down the third-base line with one away in the fifth.
The Bruins finally pushed across a run in the fifth, but by then TCU had already scored three runs off UCLA lefthander Rob Rasmussen (11-3), who allowed those runs on six hits in 4 1/3 innings. UCLA did cut TCU’s lead to 3-2 in the top of the seventh with another run off Purke, but the Frogs came right back with two runs in their half of the inning and were never threatened.
As far as trying to control the tempo, Schlossnagle said, “They’re doing the same thing we talk about: Maximize your time on offense, minimize your time on defense. If a pitcher’s dealing against us, we’re going to try to slow them down.
“We’re going to do it the right way. We’re not going to do it bush league. And I don’t think they did . . . I just think they’re very well-coached and it’s just part of it.”
Purke seemed a little more perturbed than his coach.
“I was able to stay focused,” he said. “I figured sooner or later I would get them out and they could take their time on the bench.”
Said UCLA’s Niko Gallego: “He has his own rhythm and he stuck to his rhythm. . . So he pitched a great game.”
Purke allowed two runs on three hits over 6 1/3 innings, walking two with two strikeouts. Lockwood got his eighth save by limiting the Bruins to one hit over the final 2 2/3 innings.
Purke leads the nation in victories and broke the TCU and Mountain West Conference records for wins. It is the most victories in a season for a pitcher (shared with Arizona State’s Mike Leake last season) since Rice’s Jeff Niemann went 17-0 in 2003.
Neither TCU nor UCLA had ever won a game at the College World Series before a week ago—heck, the Horned Frogs had never even been here—and now both teams are just a win away from playing for the national championship.
“This is what Omaha’s all about,” said Schlossnagle. “You have two really good programs, two very well-coached teams. And they’re still in the driver’s seat because we had to play one extra game and I had to bring my ace reliever back on one day’s rest after throwing 65 pitches . . .
“We’re both against the wall because it’s an elimination game.”