Frogs drawn to a rally
OMAHA, Neb. -- With apologies to Maryland, TCU may have found its new motto for the rest of the College World Series: Fear the turtle.
Just six outs from elimination and facing a 7-3 deficit, the Horned Frogs turned to desperate measures against Florida State on Wednesday night. Designated hitter Joe Weik traced a turtle in the dirt in front of the visitors' dugout as teammates gave input on how to shape it.
The tortoise talisman worked its magic. TCU (53-13) erupted for an eight-run eighth inning -- highlighted by Matt Curry's grand slam -- to stun the Seminoles 11-7 and force a rematch with UCLA on Friday night.
Why a turtle and not a frog? The players said they messed around drawing turtles in the dirt last summer, though no one had ever broken it out for a game before Wednesday.
"Basically, we were just digging in our toolbox, trying to find something to energize the dugout," catcher Bryan Holaday said. "Trying to get everybody into the game and realize it wasn't over yet and we could still fight back."
The players "fed" the turtle with discarded sunflower seeds and water throughout the inning, and events slowly and steadily started going their way.
Taylor Featherston reached on an infield single. Brance Rivera legged out what could have been an inning-ending double play. Holaday somehow slid around a sure tag while stretching a single into a double. Jason Coats coaxed a walk by laying off a tough 3-2 breaking ball from Mike McGee.
"Some things happened in that inning that we pride ourselves on," coach Jim Schlossnagle said.
Then came the most important play, and the biggest hit -- so far -- in TCU history. Curry launched McGee's full-count slider for a grand slam and his team's first lead of the night.
"I knew it could be my last college at-bat, and I didn't want to go down with a strikeout," said Curry, who leads the team with 18 home runs. "And it was just the opposite. It was the biggest hit of my career."
Curry screamed into his dugout as he ran up the first-base line, but his teammates and everybody in the stands were looking to center field, where Tyler Holt appeared to be camping under the ball. Schlossnagle said he wanted to drop to his knees and cry when he saw Holt circling. No need to worry, however, as Curry's shot cleared the batter's eye; Holt had merely lost the ball in the lights.
Jantzen Witte added a two-run blast two batters later as the Horned Frogs scored nine of their runs after the sixth inning.
"That's a testament to how resilient our club is and our ability to trust each other," Holaday said.
Florida State (48-20), which lost its opening game 8-1 to TCU, had only itself to blame for this loss. The Seminoles committed five errors that directly led to 10 runs. All eight runs in the eighth inning were unearned because of an error by third baseman Sherman Johnson to start the frame.
"Being up that much with six outs left, you're definitely expecting to win the game," Johnson said. "It felt like we just couldn't get out of that [eighth] inning. It felt like we were just stuck on the field. Not a good feeling."
TCU stayed alive in its first-ever World Series appearance and now must figure out a way to solve UCLA, which won Monday's first meeting 6-3. But that was before the Horned Frogs unleashed the power of the rally turtle.
"Everybody was spitting on it, and we probably left a big ol' mess out there," Curry said. "But it got everybody fired up. We will definitely use it again if we need it."
Brian Bennett covers college sports for ESPN.com.