Frogs leap back from the brink
OMAHA, Neb. – The Los Angeles Angels have the rally monkey. TCU introduced the nation to the rally turtle.
When Florida State had a 7-3 lead in the eighth inning of a College World Series elimination game, the Horned Frogs turned to the only thing they knew to get them back in the game.
They called on the rally turtle. Not an actual living turtle, but a turtle drawn into the dirt in front of their dugout at Rosenblatt Stadium.
The Horned Frogs started the eighth inning by drawing their totem in the dirt. Then they got a walk and scored a pair of runs to make it 7-5 before senior Matt Curry came to the plate with the bases loaded with two outs.
Curry got down in the count 1-2 and seemed doomed against Florida State two-way star Mike McGee. He managed load the count at 3-2 and send the 22,541 fans to their feet – sensing the first serious drama of the tournament.
Curry got a breaking ball from Mike McGee and sent it deep to center field, where FSU outfielder Tyler Holt acted as if he was under the ball and ready to record the third out and essentially end TCU’s season.
But Holt wasn’t under the ball. He lost sight of it in the twilight.
The ball went well past the 408 mark. It was a grand slam. TCU all of a sudden had a 9-7 lead over the Seminoles.
“When I hit it I knew it was gone, but then I look back out there and he’s camped underneath it. My heart sunk,” Curry said. “But it was gone and it was great. It was definitely the biggest hit in my career.”
TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle didn’t see the home run. He just knew Holt didn’t come up with the ball.
“To be honest with you, Holt had me fooled. I almost dropped to my knees in tears,” he said. “As soon as I saw all of our guys go crazy, I turned around to the bullpen phone and told them to get [Kaleb] Merck ready.”
TCU’s Jantzen Witte followed up Curry’s homer with a two-run shot that gave the Horned Frogs an 11-7 lead after scoring eight runs in the inning. Curry’s homer, is turns out, was all the Frogs needed.
TCU began the inning with probability not on its side. It ended the inning jubilant and tasting at least one more game in this tournament.
The Frogs had little trouble closing out the Seminoles in the ninth.
In what has become a common thread, the Frogs once again showed resiliency.
The examples are endless.
Just a few weeks ago, the Frogs found a way to lose a single game to Air Force, essentially dooming their hopes for a national seed because of a massive RPI drop. The Horned Frogs finished the regular season on a high note and absolutely tore through their competition in the Mountain West tournament.
The Frogs then went on to dominate the Fort Worth Regional. Then, the Frogs won the series opener of the Austin Super Regional before dropping Game Two against the Longhorns. Again showing their resilient nature, the Frogs came back in the series finale to dispose of the Longhorns to punch their ticket to the College World Series for the first time in program history.
Now, in Omaha, with their backs against the wall against one of the nation’s premier teams and relief pitchers in Mike McGee, the Horned Frogs again promised themselves they would put their never-say-die attitude on display.
They did that with the help of the rally turtle.
With the win, the Horned Frogs only have a few hours to celebrate. They must come back Friday to play a UCLA team that dominated them in the previous meeting.
Schlossnagle didn’t officially announce a starting pitcher, but alluded to starting sensational freshman pitcher Matt Purke in the rematch.
Purke was fabulous in his first start in the tournament, and chances are he once again will give the Frogs some strong innings.
But if Purke and the Frogs happen to get down late against the Bruins, they know of a certain reptile that has a history of pulling them through.
“I have a feeling you’ll see him again,” Curry quipped.
All hail to the rally turtle.