By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Winning the winner’s bracket after two days wasn’t enough to win the regional.
With starting pitchers squaring off in an opening-game rematch, it was the bullpen that made the difference for TCU.
Side-arm reliever Justin Scharf induced ground ball after ground ball Monday night, and the Horned Frogs beat Ole Miss for the second time in two days, 7-4, before a crowd of 3,579 at Blue Bell Park in the championship game of the College Station Regional.
“You’ve got to win the one game to move on, and you’ve got to go with your aces when they say they can do it,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. “They just played better than we did. They were a better club tonight and yesterday.”
The Rebels made good contact against TCU starter Preston Morrison, though the freshman righty held the runs down.
Tanner Mathis scored on a ground ball in the first, but the Rebels missed a great chance to extend their lead in the second. Sikes Orvis and Will Allen were on base with no outs and were bunted ahead by Andrew Mistone.
But Orvis was picked off at third for the second out. No one reached home.
The final run allowed by Morrison was on Zach Kirksey’s sacrifice fly against Scharf. That gave the Rebels a 3-2 lead in the fifth, but it was the last ball that got off the ground against Scharf until the eighth inning.
Scharf closed the Sunday game with 12/3 scoreless, hitless innings. Monday, the Rebels didn’t get a hit against him until Auston Bousfield’s two-out single in the eighth.
Scharf pitched the final 42/3 innings, giving up four hits and one run, all after two outs in the eighth inning.
TCU’s first two runs were solo home runs against Wahl. Frogs coach Jim Schlossnagle was confident that wouldn’t happen against his team.
“The thing about Justin, he was throwing strikes, and he was throwing strikes to the lefties. He’s going to keep the ball in the park,” Schlossnagle said.
More than keeping the ball in the park, Scharf often kept it in the infield.
“From the angle he’s throwing it’s tough to pick up where the pitch is going to be,” Rebels’ second baseman Alex Yarbrough said. “Morrison has more sync on his ball, but you can see it out of his hand easier. It’s easier to decide if you’re going to swing. Scharf is tough, throwing with velocity from down low.”
Playing his aces
Bianco turned to his top two starters to keep the season alive.
Bobby Wahl went threw three scoreless innings to start but finished a 41/3-inning stint with four earned runs.
Behind him, Mike Mayers – who threw 121 pitches against Texas Aamp&M on Saturday – went two innings and gave up two hits, three runs, one earned.
Wahl had not allowed more than two earned runs since giving up four, his season high, at Alabama on March 23.
“After the first two games we were 100 percent sure we were going to the super regional,” Yarbrough said. “But I can’t be prouder about the way we competed, and it’s a tough break tonight.”