The late shift at Lupton Stadium did its tournament thing again Saturday night.
Make that Sunday morning.
When the clock strikes midnight during the NCAA tournament, history tells us, curious and defeat-defying things seem to happen for the TCU Horned Frogs.
In the weather-delayed-and-delayed regional opener, the deciding things were senior Mitchell Traver’s seven innings of one-hit pitching and a six-run eighth inning outburst ignited by an Evan Skoug home run.
The Frogs recorded the final out of their 9-6 victory at 1:12 a.m. Sunday.
Which figures. By my unofficial count, TCU is undefeated after midnight in NCAA postseason play.
That would include the Indiana Jones-like, seven-hour, 22-inning win over Sam Houston State in the 2014 regional that ended at 2:30 a.m. And the 16-inning Super Regional-deciding victory over Texas A&M a year later that was decided at 1 o’clock on a Tuesday morning.
To what does coach Jim Schlossnagle attribute these after-midnight heroics?
“Well, I hope I can’t attribute it to the fact that they’re used to being up at this hour of the morning,” Schlossnagle joked.
When the game comes calling, more often than not these guys are ready to play.
TCU baseball coach Jim Schlossnagle
“But, I mean, experience. If you look at our numbers, look at our team ERA, look at our team batting average, anything like that . . . we lost our cleanup hitter for the year . . . and you couldn’t see wins and losses, you’d say is that a national seed team?
“Well, it is a national seed team , and it’s because of their savvy, their presence. It’s because nobody ever panics.
“When the game comes calling, more often than not these guys are ready to play.”
In the deciding game of the TCU-hosted regional one week before the 2015 series with the Aggies, the Frogs were down to their final strike in the eighth inning, trailing 8-1 to North Carolina State. Two singles, a passed ball, a walk, a balk and three Wolfpack errors helped TCU send the game into extra innings, where Elliott Barzilli won it with an RBI single.
That one ended at 11:02 p.m. But aha! It was past midnight in Raleigh, N.C., home of N.C. State.
All of a sudden, the ball started bouncing around the yard.
Central Connecticut coach Charlie Hickey
Against senior left-hander Brendan Smith, the Frogs found themselves with an uneasy 3-1 lead in Sunday morning’s eighth inning.
“All of a sudden,” said Central Connecticut coach Charlie Hickey, “the ball started bouncing around the yard.”
A double by Austen Wade and Zach Humphrey’s single down the left field line preceded Skoug’s homer, his 17th of the season.
“To me, that’s postseason experience coming through,” Schlossnagle said. “That’s playing in Omaha, that’s playing on the road at A&M, that’s playing in 22-inning games, all that kind of stuff.
“That’s the strength of our club.”
Schlossnagle planned to send sophomore Jared Janczak to the mound Sunday to face a heavy-hitting Virginia lineup.
The Frogs and Cavaliers played a memorable 15-inning contest at the College World Series three years ago. Virginia prevailed 3-2 in a game that ended exactly 60 seconds before midnight, Omaha time.
Gil LeBreton: @gilebreton