OMAHA, Neb. – TCU’s offense failed to capitalize on scoring opportunities in a must-win game against Florida on Wednesday afternoon.
The Horned Frogs put pressure on Florida but left 10 runners on base. The lack of execution led to TCU falling 3-2 against Florida in the College World Series.
It marks the end of an incredible season that almost didn’t materialize for the Horned Frogs (44-24). They were 23-20 on April 30 and in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament. They finished the season on a 21-4 run to finish in the tournament’s semifinals. It marked their first College World Series appearance since 2017.
“Resilient, hardworking, determined young men that decided that they weren’t going to lose anymore,” TCU coach Kirk Saarloos said. “And it’s pretty special when you get a group of guys – the story is – every season has a story, but this one is pretty special in terms of where they were, where they finished, and they finished top four in the country. They were 23 and 20. Left for dead. And they just kept showing up, kept working.”
The Gators (53-15) jumped out to the early lead in the first inning. Center fielder Wyatt Langford drew a one-out walk, and then two batters later, shortstop Josh Rivera crushed a hanging breaking pitch into the left-center field stands for a two-run homer.
In the bottom of the first, the Horned Frogs responded. Karson Bowen drew a walk and then advanced on a wild pitch to second base. The mistake came back to haunt Florida left-hander Jac Caglianone. On a full-count offering, TCU third baseman Brayden Taylor used his short swing to drive the ball into right-center field for an RBI single.
Despite numerous chances, TCU didn’t score again until the eighth inning. Anthony Silva drilled an off-speed pitch into the left-center field gap past Langford’s outstretch glove for an RBI double to even the score in the eighth.
The Gators immediately responded. After Tyler Shelnut nearly missed a home run and settled for a leadoff double, Cade Kurland hit a hard ground ball into the hole at shortstop. Silva fielded the ball, but his throw bounced to first base, allowing Kurland to beat it out for a two-out RBI.
The Horned Frogs didn’t go away without a fight, though. Taylor nearly delivered the game-tying run, lacing a ball to deep center field. It appeared to have a chance to go over the fence off the bat. But with the wind blowing in, it allowed Florida’s Michael Robertson to make an unbelievable catch at the wall to seal the victory.
“I went up there taking my same approach I always do,” Taylor said. “Even though the moment may have seemed a little bit bigger, I was just going up there, trying to get a good pitch to hit, put a good swing on it. I put a good swing on it. I thought it may have a chance.”
The Horned Frogs received a great effort from their pitching staff. Freshman righty Kole Klecker allowed two runs on six hits and one walk while striking out two batters in five innings. Freshman reliever Ben Abeldt also pitched well, surrendering one run on three hits while recording five strikeouts in three innings.
Caglianone didn’t have his best stuff for Florida on Wednesday. But it was good enough to keep the Horned Frogs’ offense in check. He lacked command most of his start, allowing one run on three hits and three walks while tallying four strikeouts. He also had two wild pitches.
Now, Florida advances to the championship series and will face the winner between LSU and Wake Forest. The Gators are seeking their second national title in program history, with their lone title coming in 2017.
“It’s not easy to get to this point,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “It’s just not. I know I overstate it and say it over and over, but we just played three one-run games, and they’re all nail-biters down to the end.”