Steven Branscombe, USA Today Sports

No. 1 Frogs rally for 5 runs in ninth, defeat Texas A&M 11-10 in 15 inning marathon

In a 15 inning marathon game, TCU finished their comeback, beating Texas A&M 11-10. The Frogs scored five runs in the ninth to send it into extra frames.

It almost seemed inevitable for No. 1 TCU and No. 15 Texas A&M to produce chaos Saturday night in Houston, given the recent playoff history between the two programs. Fate or not, another chapter was indeed added to one of College Baseball’s best rivalries, as the Horned Frogs overcame an early 7-1 deficit en route to a wild 15-inning walk-off win over the Aggies.

Trailing 10-5 heading into the ninth inning, the Frogs stunned the Aggies by rallying for five runs of the Texas A&M bullpen, chasing normally reliable closer Cason Sherrod before an out was even recorded. Third-baseman Elliot Barzilli produced the game tying-hit with the Frogs down to their final out, assisted by a fielding error at third base to bring home two runs.

After nobody scored for the next six innings and the game dragged on to the 15th frame, it was shortstop Ryan Merrill who came to the rescue for TCU with two on and nobody out, sending a 2-2 pitch from Lee May Gonzalez into the gap and scoring center fielder Nolan Brown from second for the winning run.

“What do you even say between the games we’ve had with these guys over the course of time?” TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle remarked after the win. “You’d like it to be clearer, but anytime these two teams get together you’re pretty sure it’s got a chance to be a zoo.”

It was a gritty and improbable win for the No. 1 team in the nation, especially considering how bad TCU stumbled out of the gate to begin the game. Freshman starting pitcher Nick Lodolo struggled in the first inning for the Frogs, putting the first two batters of the game on base en-route to a 5-run inning for the Aggies – punctuated by a 3-run homer from left fielder Walker Pennington.

Texas A&M sent 11 batters to the plate by the time the 30-minute top of the first came to an end, but not until after Lodolo left the game nine batters in after taking a line drive to the leg. He would be replaced by Jake Eisser in relief.

The Frogs responded with a run off of two two-out singles from catcher Evan Skoug and Luken Baker in the bottom of the first, cutting the Aggie lead to 5-1. Eissler would keep Texas A&M scoreless until the fifth, striking out the side in both the third and fourth innings.

The Frogs squandered several scoring opportunities during that stretch, surrendering a two-on, one out situation with a strike-him-out, throw-him-out to end the third, before Pennington made a leaping, inning ending grab against the left field wall with two-runners on in the bottom of the fourth. Texas A&M starting pitcher Alex Kolek was pulled at the end of the fourth after hurling 83 pitches, finishing the night with six strikeouts, one earned run, and two walks.

Eissler would surrender two runs in the fifth inning rolled around, extending the Aggies’ lead to 7-1 before being replaced the next inning Haylen Green. But Green took care of business in the sixth before the Frogs got two runs back in the bottom of half of the inning, coming off a Cam Warner infield single and a wild ball four with two outs, making it a four-run game at 7-3.

Following an RBI single for Texas A&M in the top of the seventh, the Frogs cut the deficit to three when Nolan Brown singled with two outs and the ball got by Pennington all the way to the wall in left field, bringing Luken Baker and Elliot Barzilli home to make it an 8-5 game.

After a scoreless eighth and several pitching changes later, the Aggies seemed to put things in the bag when Hunter Coleman sliced a two-out double into right field off reliever Tyler Morris, scoring two runs and putting Texas A&M ahead 10-5 in the ninth. But things took a twist when normally reliable closer Cason Sherrod walked the bases loaded. That was just the beginning.

Needing a calm and rested arm, the Aggies turned to reliever Kyle Richardson, who immediately allowed a run to score on a wild pitch. Unbelievably, Richardson then walked Brown and Warner to make it a 10-7 game before getting pulled. But Kaylor Chafin couldn’t stop the bleeding, allowing a one-out RBI single to Austin Ingraham before Elliott Barzilli tied it at 10 with two outs on a two-run single, assisted by an error at third base. With a five-run ninth-inning rally capped off, the game headed to extras.

The Frogs would turn to reliever Sean Wymer as the game headed to the 10th inning, and it was a move that paid off, as Wymer threw five perfect innings on the mound with nine strikeouts. He was unable to couple his relief work however with any offense from the Horned Frogs, despite several scoring threats.

“We learned a lot about our team and bullpen,” Schlossnagle said. “Trey Morris and Sean Wymer in an extended role did a fantastic job…..even the guys that weren’t throwing well, they were still competing.”

Schlossnagle praised Wymer for the progress he had made and the performance that he gave the team in extra innings.

“He’s kind of been a ‘pick to click’ for us ever since he came back,” Schlossnagle said.” He lowered his arm angle, his velocity has picked up, so we’ve seen it in a set-up type roll….sometimes things happen that you don’t like but you learn a lot as a team.”

TCU would find itself with a great chance to win it in the 12th after Chafin loaded the bases with no outs, but the Frogs came up empty after Watson hit into a force at home, followed up by a Brown strikeout and a line-out to left by Warner.

After Durbin Feltman came into relieve Wymer in the 15th inning, the Aggies finally got a baserunner again with a two-out walk to Jorge Gutierrez, but Feltman struck out Austin Homan to send it to the bottom of the 15th still tied at 10-10.

In the bottom of the inning, after Chafin was pulled at 83 pitches, the Frogs would manage to get runners at first and second with just one out off Jason Ruffcorn, bringing Merrill up to hit after Ruffcorn was relieved by Gonzales. Merrill singled into the gap and the rest was history as his teammates mobbed him in the infield, nearly six hours after the first pitch.

With 15 frames behind them, the Frogs combined for 26 strikeouts from seven different pitchers as Feltman picked up the win, his first of the season. TCU used 19 players in the contest, with 37 used between both teams at the end of the night.

Schlossnagle said that the game, though intense per usual with the Aggies, was a neat demonstration of sportsman ship through fierce competition.

“What’s awesome is that the fans always get rowdy but there’s a ton of respect between the two programs….player to player, coach to coach, and I’m sure we’ll probably see them again before the year ends,” Schlossnagle said.

The marathon gives the Frogs a quick turnaround for their next game, slated to face the Ole Miss Rebels at 1:35 p.m., less than 12 hours before the conclusion of Saturday night’s game.

“Get something quick to eat and go to sleep,” Schlossnagle said. “You’ve got to be here tomorrow to play the Rebels.”

TCU now sits at 9-1 on the season as they go for a 3-0 weekend in Houston Sunday afternoon.

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