FORT WORTH -- Pepperdine’s Aaron Brown threw 118 pitches to catcher Aaron Barnett Sunday evening.
But it was his 119th throw to the plate, which came from center field, that could’ve been his most important. Brown, who moved to the outfield after starting on the mound, ended a TCU rally in the eighth inning with a strike to home that erased the tying run on a two-out single from Keaton Jones.
An athlete’s vertical leap is an emphasized attribute in NBA and NFL scouting, but not so much in baseball. Sunday, another couple inches on Jerrick Suiter’s leap would’ve made a difference for the Frogs.
Suiter, who singled home Garrett Crain to cut a Horned Frog deficit to one, attempted to leap over Barnett and touch home to tie the game, but was tagged out, allowing the Waves to hold on to what would be the final 3-2 lead.
“To me [Brown] was the story of the game,” TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “As Coach Augie Garrido says, ‘sometimes when you lose it’s not your fault.' I think it’s more about Aaron Brown than anything else.”
The Frogs scored two unearned runs in the eighth after the Waves made two errors on the same play, Crain’s grounder to shortstop.
In the ninth, it was Pepperdine closer Eric Karch who set the Frogs down in order. The final out came on a pop-up to none other than Aaron Brown. Hutton Moyer, son of 25-year MLB hurler Jamie Moyer, made a diving play to make the first out and prevent the leadoff man from reaching base.
TCU right-hander Preston Morrison has had the kind of year that makes throwing 6.2 innings and allowing three runs on five hits look like an “off night.” But that’s how it shook out Sunday evening.
Morrison was impressive - recording what statisticians at the next level would label a “quality start” - but Brown was even better. Brown, a third-round draft choice as an outfielder by the Philadelphia Phillies, also allowed just five hits through seven innings and held TCU hitless with runners in scoring position.
The Frogs were 0-for-7 with RISP against Brown, and left a total of nine runners on base.
TCU’s biggest missed opportunity came in the top of the third. Dylan Fitzgerald lifted a leadoff double over the left fielder’s head and Keaton Jones reached by way of a throwing error on a sac bunt attempt to put runners on first and third no outs. The Frogs would load the bases with one out, but back-to-back strikeouts from Derek Odell and Boomer White quelled the scoring chance.
“We had our opportunities there and couldn’t push them through,” Schlossnagle said.
Schlossnagle made the trip out of the visitor’s dugout (as the Frogs were the designated road team for Sunday’s game two) to get Morrison with two outs in the seventh inning. A sac fly by Manny Jefferson plated the second run for the Waves, and an RBI double from Brandon Caruso gave Pepperdine a three-run advantage.
It was the second run-scoring hit of the night for Caruso. The Waves broke a scoreless tie on Caruso’s RBI single in the fifth inning. Moyer, who singled to lead off the inning, scored on both of Caruso’s hits.
Morrison worked around a leadoff double from Brown in the second inning, retiring the next three hitters.
“I felt like my stuff was pretty good today, not my best,” Morrison said. “Definitely not my best day command-wise either.”
He threw 55 strikes on 85 pitches (64.7 percent).
Monday’s decisive third game has been moved to 3 p.m. from its originally scheduled 6 p.m. start time. The Horned Frogs, despite being the no. 7 national seed, will reside in the visitor’s dugout once again.
TCU lost the coin flip to decide the home and visiting teams for game three in the pre-tournament meeting.
“Those are the rules,” Schlossnagle said. “We’ve won Regionals in that dugout, we’ve played conference tournaments in that dugout. It’s no big deal, we get to hit first.”