OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – With TCU holding a one-run lead and two Louisville runners on base and two outs in the fifth inning, Sean Wymer got called out of the bullpen.
The first batter he faced: national player of the year Brendan McKay.
Wymer struck out McKay to end the inning, and he fanned him again with a runner on to end the eighth during another shutdown performance that helped the Horned Frogs win 4-3 on Thursday night at the College World Series.
TCU advanced to its bracket final for the third year in a row. The Frogs must beat Florida on Friday night and again Saturday to reach the best-of-three championship series for the first time.
“I felt like it was a classic ballgame from beginning to end,” coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “Obviously, the story tonight was Sean and how well he pitched out of the bullpen for us. I was trying to hold off on putting him in there as long as possible but felt like it was the fifth inning there with McKay coming to the plate. That could be the game.”
Wymer (6-4), who worked the last 4 1/3 innings, has thrown nine shutout innings over his last four appearances. He limited the Cardinals (53-12) to two hits after they had pulled within a run on McKay’s 18th homer of the year and Logan Taylor’s first homer in 123 games.
McKay, the No. 4 overall pick by Tampa Bay in last week’s Major League baseball draft, was the Dick Howser Trophy winner as the nation’s top college player and also is a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award.
“I knew what my job was when I came in,” Wymer said of facing McKay in the fifth. “I had to get that out because you wanted to keep the game, obviously, in our favor. So that’s really it.”
The Horned Frogs led 4-0 in the second inning against freshman left-hander Nick Bennett (5-1), who was making his first start since a regional win over Xavier on June 4. After Connor Wanhanen doubled in a run, Omaha native Ryan Merrill singled in two more to knock out Bennett.
Josh Watson scored the second run on Merrill’s base hit on a play at the plate that stood after a video review. The sliding Watson was able to touch home with his left hand as catcher Colby Fitch tagged his knee almost simultaneously.
Austen Wade followed with an RBI single off Adam Wolf to break an 0-for-15 slump.
The Cardinals scored each of the next three innings to pull within one. Josh Stowers singled in a run, McKay homered on the first pitch of the fourth and Taylor on the first pitch of the fifth to chase TCU starter Nick Lodolo.
Louisville coach Dan McDonnell was ejected in the eighth inning after pinch runner Ryan Summers was caught stealing second. McDonnell sprinted out of the first-base dugout to argue with second-base umpire Mark Winters. The play was not subject to video review. TV replays showed Summers’ foot touching the bag as Cam Warner tagged his helmet. McDonnell was the first coach ejected in a College World Series game since Cal State Fullerton’s George Horton on June 18, 2007.
“I lost my cool and just fought for my guy knowing the point of the game and how valuable that base was,” McDonnell said. “But I’m never going to stand behind a camera and blame an umpire. That’s not the reason we lost. I don’t know if I should have been thrown out, but that’s not my call to make.”
Drew Ellis came into the CWS as the Cardinals’ leading hitter, but he was 1 for 10 after popping out in the eighth with a runner on first.
STRUGGLING AT TOP
TCU is in the bracket final despite its Nos. 1 through 3 hitters struggling. Wade, Zach Humphreys and Evan Skoug are a combined 3 for 29 in the CWS.
JUST ONE WIN
Louisville failed to win multiple games at the CWS for the fourth time. The Cardinals are 2-8 all-time in the CWS and 1-4 in elimination games. Their only win in an elimination game was in 2007.
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