Virginia prevails in 15 innings; one win from CWS title series
OMAHA, Neb. — Somewhere, Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco was hoping to see records crushed and arms flailing.
Virginia and TCU tied for the longest game in College World Series history Tuesday night, with the Cavaliers outlasting the Horned Frogs in 15 innings, 3-2.
Daniel Pinero’s RBI fly to center scored the winning run in a game Ole Miss would have been perfectly OK with going five or 10 more innings. It had already gone 4 hours 51 minutes — the longest game, time-wise, at TD Ameritrade Park, ending a single minute shy of midnight (CST).
With the loser of the winner’s bracket game facing the resting Rebels on Thursday in an elimination game, Ole Miss wouldn’t mind taking on a depleted pitching staff.
The Rebels, who avoided elimination with Tuesday’s 2-1 ousting of Texas Tech, likely won’t see TCU closer Riley Ferrell, who threw four innings of clinic baseball or Trey Teakell, TCU’s two most-used relievers.
"Obviously, Ferrell and Teakell are not available, but I feel comfortable as long as we can go out there the way Preston (Morrison) and Brandon (Finnegan) did, pitch deep into the game," said TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle. "I venture to say you won’t see the last two."
Morrison was the winner Sunday against Texas Tech, throwing 7 1/3 innings of five-hit ball. At one point Tuesday, Ferrell and Teakell retired 16 in a row. Schlossnagle felt better about his arms than he does about the TD stadium’s spacious confines.
"I’ve got to be careful here before I say some things about this ballpark that I’ll regret," he said. "But it’s just a travesty what we’ve done to college baseball."
But the Frogs (48-17) and Rebels (47-20) will be on the same field, one for the last time.
The game set single-game records: TCU’s Cody Jones tying a record with seven at-bats (23rd time); TCU’s 27 assists, the 44 combined assists and TCU first baseman Kevin Cron’s 23 putouts.
By the time it ended, Virginia coach Brian O’Connor was talking about going to bed and the PA announcer humorously quipped, "We bid you, good morning."
The 24,285 fans in attendance probably wouldn’t have complained about seeing a little more of what — for a while — had been a pitching duel between dominant closers, Virginia’s Nick Howard (19th overall pick in the recent MLB draft) and Ferrell.
Dominant may not be worthy. Entering the night, Howard had appeared in 28 games and had a 2.05 ERA. He had struck out 51 and walked 12. Ferrell was making his 31st appearance, sporting a 0.87 ERA with 66 strikeouts, 13 walks and 15 saves — four behind Howard’s 19.
They put on a show within the show.
Howard already had five strikeouts in three innings of work, which was already a season-high output and his most in a relief spot since June 2012 (freshman). He struck out Boomer White with a 95 mph fastball in the 11th. His final line was a gem: Four innings, one hit, no runs, a walk and six strikeouts. Of his 60 pitches … 38 were strikes.
Ferrell went four innings, allowing one hit and no runs. He also walked one and struck out four. He threw 46 pitches, 32 for strikes. He was throwing 96 in the 12th and struck out Pinero to end the inning.
Ferrell was heavily helped out in the bottom of the 10th inning by Jones in center, whose diving catch off the bat of Mike Papi saved a leadoff single, maybe double.
Center field play was sharp. Virginia center fielder Brandon Downes gunned down a runner at third in the 12th inning, his first outfield assist of the year, and made a running catch toward the fence to end the top of the 15th.
For Howard, second baseball Branden Cogswell ranged left to get a fister off the bat of Jerrick Suiter, with a man on in the bottom of the 11th.
Unfortunately, neither won, but the Rebels were glad to see them work.
Ole Miss will likely go to third starter Sam Smith (5-4, 3.45). Schlossnagle hadn’t decided on Jordan Kipper (8-2, 3.10) or Tyler Alexander (10-3, 2.16).
The closers weren’t the only worker bees. Virginia used four arms, Whit Mayberry and Artie Lewicki (back-to-back outings) throwing two innings each.
Ole Miss used three pitchers on Sunday, and two Tuesday, but only one went more than one inning. That was most-used reliever Aaron Greenwood, who scored the winning run as a pinch-runner Tuesday against Texas Tech.
TCU used two in Sunday’s 3-2 win against Texas Tech: Morrison, then Ferrell for 1 1/3 innings.
"Obviously they have a really good team," Schlossnagle said. "Mike and I are really, really close, spent all summer together, Team USA. I was excited he won. I’m never excited to play real close friends like that."