By ERIC OLSON (AP Sports Writer)
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Blaze Brothers hit a go-ahead three-run homer in the ninth inning after an Oral Roberts pitching meltdown in the eighth, and the Golden Eagles continued their surprising postseason run with a 6-5 victory over TCU on Friday in the opening game of the College World Series.
The Eagles, the lowest seed to make it to Omaha since 2012, had just gone down three runs before they jumped on Luke Savage for four in the ninth. Drew Stahl’s RBI single pulled ORU within 5-3, and then Brothers drove an 0-1 pitch out to left for his first homer since May 24.
“It was like slow motion,” Brothers said. “Right when I felt it off the bat it felt pretty good, and I saw the left fielder kind of turn around, and I was, like, ‘Oh, that ball’s out. Lets go.’ I just wanted to get around the bases to celebrate with the boys.”
Oral Roberts is in the CWS for the first time in 45 years, and except for the rocky eighth inning, the upstart challengers from the Summit League showed no sign of wilting on college baseball’s biggest stage while winning for the 24th time in 25 games.
The Eagles’ Jonah Cox went 0 for 5, ending a 47-game hitting streak that was tied for third-longest in Division I history.
ORU (52-12) will play the winner of Friday night’s game between Florida and Virginia on Sunday night. TCU (42-23), which lost for the first time in 12 games, will play the Florida-Virginia loser in an elimination game Sunday afternoon.
“You’ve just got to give credit to Oral Roberts where credit’s due,” TCU coach Kirk Saarloos said. “They’ve done it — I watched them in the postseason. They’ve come back. They’re a resilient bunch, an old group. And they put a great swing on the ball in the ninth. But I wouldn’t change anything. I thought our guys played with great effort, great grit. It just stinks sometimes somebody’s got to lose a game like that.”
Among the Eagles’ supporters at Charles Schwab Field were members of their 1978 CWS team and Mike Moore, who pitched 14 years in the major leagues after being the No. 1 overall pick in the 1981 amateur draft.
“They just tell us to keep going,” ORU’s Justin Quinn said. “What we’re doing is pretty special, and they enjoy watching it and we enjoy doing it. As long as we keep confidence up and keep going I think we can get it done.”
The celebratory mood in ORU’s dugout following Brothers’ homer turned to anxiety when TCU had runners on first and second with one out in the bottom of the ninth against Cade Denton.
Denton (3-1) got Karson Bowen to chase a pitch outside the zone for the second out to set up a showdown between the National Stopper of the Year and Brayden Taylor, the Frogs’ biggest offensive threat. Taylor lined out to left to end the game, and Denton got a bit of redemption after his horrendous eighth inning.
“I’m sitting in the dugout watching our guys go out and put four up on the board, and obviously I came into the dugout thinking I needed to go back out and get the job done if we get the lead here,” Denton said. “After that first inning, lacking a little confidence, Blaze’s home run definitely instilled that confidence in me.”
ORU coach Ryan Folmar called on Denton with runners on first and second and one out. Denton’s first pitch was wild, allowing both runners to move up, and Taylor was then intentionally walked to load the bases and set up forces all around.
Denton then walked in the go-ahead run and hit Tre Richardson to bring in another before Kurtis Byrne’s sacrifice fly made it a three-run game.
TCU’s Cole Fontenelle, the Most Outstanding Player of the super regional against Indiana State, opened the scoring with a home run in the fourth and added an RBI single in the sixth.
Mac McCroskey’s two-run homer accounted for the Eagles’ only scoring until the ninth against Savage (5-4).
“Obviously we’ve been through worse than this,” Fontenelle said. “We’ve been to a point where we didn’t think we were going to make a regional. We don’t really need to change anything. We’re going to come back and we’re going to be good.”
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