OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – It looked like it was all over for Baylor, and then, suddenly, it wasn’t.
After the Bears caught a major break in the ninth inning, Shea Langeliers’ bases-loaded single in the 11th gave Baylor a 6-5 win over TCU on Sunday in the Big 12 Championship game.
TCU’s A.J. Balta hit two homers, but he misjudged a fly ball in right field with two outs in the ninth with a chance to clinch the win for the Horned Frogs (33-23). TCU had been 27-0 when leading after eight innings this season.
“That’s as tough of a loss as I’ve ever had,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said.
It was the first tournament title for the Bears (36-19) in seven championship appearances.
“It’s not exactly how you draw it up by any stretch,” Baylor coach Steve Rodriguez said. “It was just really impressive watching these guys fight.”
The fifth-seeded Bears earned the league’s automatic NCAA Tournament berth and now have won 22 of their past 25 games.
Sixth-seeded TCU had won 14 of 19 heading into the final, but three losses to Texas to close the regular season put its NCAA Tournament hopes in doubt. The Horned Frogs entered the Big 12 Tournament with an RPI of 54. TCU has been to the College World Series four consecutive years, but the Horned Frogs might get left out of the 64-team tournament field when it is announced Monday.
“You can be Pollyanna and think you’ve got a shot, but I don’t know,” Schlossnagle said. “We got swept three times in our league. I think we played well late. I think if we were to get lucky and get in, we’d play well.”
Baylor’s Davis Wendzel hit a three-run homer in the first that scored Richard Cunningham and Nick Loftin. TCU countered with solo homers by Connor Wanhanen in the second and Balta in the third.
Balta cranked his second homer in the eighth with a runner on to put TCU up 4-3.
Baylor got two on with no outs in the eighth, but the Horned Frogs struck out the next two batters. Cole Haring launched a deep fly ball to center, but it was caught at the warning track to end the threat. TCU used three pitchers in the inning — Cal Coughlin, Nick Lodolo and Sean Wymer — and each registered one out.
TCU closer Durbin Feltman, who had missed nearly a month with an injury before returning during the Big 12 tournament, entered in the ninth with a 4-3 lead. With two outs, the Horned Frogs lost back-to-back fly balls in the sun. On the second one, Balta misplayed Cunningham’s pop fly to right and Loftin scored.
“Certainly, losing the ball in the sun — we work on that,” Schlossnagle said. “It’s a stupid sport.”
Baylor got two on with no outs in the 10th but did not score. TCU’s Trey Morris struck out Haring swinging with a full count and runners on first and third with two outs.
Conner Shepherd’s RBI single put TCU up 5-4 in the top of the 11th. With the Horned Frogs still up 5-4, Balta threw out Josh Bissonette at home for the second out. Baylor eventually tied the game when Andy Thomas walked to score Loftin, setting up Langeliers’ hit.
“It started out as being one of the coolest moments of my life,” Langeliers said. “Never felt better. Then I turned around and saw the rest of the team coming to tackle me, and I was pretty terrified. It is an unreal feeling. It’s a hard thing to describe.”
Schlossnagle doesn’t blame Balta for the loss.
“I don’t know what else he could have done to help give us a chance to win, and we certainly wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him,” Schlossnagle said.
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