June 16, 2010

College World Series Schedule


Frog Pile: Winkler Guides TCU to CWS

By Sean Ryan

CollegeBaseballInsider.com Co-Founder


When the NCAA college baseball tournament pairings were announced, there surely were some in Fort Worth, Texas, who were thinking, “Not again.”


TCU, in the midst of its finest season, was selected to host a Regional for the second straight year. Should the Horned Frogs win, they would be shipped roughly 200 miles down Interstate 35 to Austin to meet Texas for the second straight year in the Super Regionals.


But after the Horned Frogs learned their fate, sophomore right-hander Kyle Winkler told pitching coach Randy Mazey that if there was any way he could have it, the Frogs’ journey to Omaha would include a return trip to face the Longhorns.


“To be honest, it hurt pretty bad last year,” Winkler said.


Winkler started the first game of last year’s Super Regionals against the Longhorns and lost for the first time all season. TCU took the second game but fell one game short of reaching the College World Series with a 5-2 loss to Texas.


Winkler got his wish for a rematch.


Winkler got the ball in the deciding game Sunday and didn’t allow a run in pitching into the eighth inning. And for the first time in school history, TCU is headed to the College World Series.


“No, it hasn’t at all,” Winkler said when asked Tuesday if reaching Omaha had sunk in. “It feels pretty unreal…It’s hard to believe that we’re going.”


To get there, the Frogs dispatched of Lamar, Arizona and Baylor in the Fort Worth Regional.


Then, in the opener against Texas, freshman lefty sensation Matt Purke (14-0) struck out 11 and allowed three hits and one run in 7.2 innings, and Tyler Lockwood closed in a 3-1 win. The Longhorns stormed back and routed the Frogs 14-1 setting up a winner-take-all game for the second straight year.


Winkler (left) spent the previous two days studying the Longhorns, learning that when his fellow pitchers got hit hardest, they were pitching from behind. He said he felt confident going into the game and simply wanted to give the Frogs as many quality innings as he could.


But he knew there was little margin for error.


“With their pitching staff, you’re not going to get a lot of runs off of them,” Winkler said of the Longhorns, who entered with the nation’s best pitching staff and allowed eight runs in the three games of the series.


Winkler ran into trouble several times early in the game, but each time was able to wriggle out of it. First baseman Matt Curry made a diving play down the line in the first. Winkler stranded runners at third in three of the first four innings.


“The big key for me was to try to get ahead of hitters, but I didn’t really do that,” he said. “When they were looking for fastballs, I was able to throw sliders for strikes.”


Leading 1-0 in the bottom of the seventh, center fielder Aaron Schultz gave Winkler and the Frogs some insurance with a two-run homer.


“Absolutely huge,” Winkler said. “It just allowed me to make some pitches in the middle of the plate and let them get themselves out instead of me really having to pitch to get them out.”


Winkler, 12-1 this year and 19-2 in his career, came out after 7.2 innings, five hits, three walks, six strikeouts and no runs – thanks in part to a splendid Schultz catch in center in the eighth.


Lockwood entered and ran into a bit of trouble, allowing a run on an error.


“The guys on the bench were as nervous as everybody on the field,” Winkler said.


Lockwood got a harmless grounder to second to pick up his second save of the series and send TCU into a Frog Pile behind second base and on top of the Longhorns logo.


Some thought TCU disrespected Texas, which traditionally doesn’t dogpile until the College World Series, by celebrating on its logo in center field.


“It was just spontaneous,” Winkler said, adding that the team went towards Schultz, one of the heroes. “I was just trying to tackle the first person I could.”

That person ended up being roommate and fellow sophomore Taylor Featherston, TCU’s shortstop who scored twice in the deciding game.


Afterwards, Winkler had about 30 text messages and a handful of voice mails waiting on his cell phone. He got another 20 texts on the way home to Fort Worth. And he’s been taking plenty of phone calls from friends and family members.


Slowly it’s starting to sink in: TCU is headed to Omaha.


“I’ve never been there,” Winkler said. “I always told myself I would go some day. I was hoping I’d go as a player.”  


(photos courtesy of TCU Media Relations Office)