OMAHA, Neb. -- Matt Purke's first pitch only validated the nerves that came with the first start of a College World Series.
AP Photo/Nati HarnikFreshman Matt Purke led TCU to an 8-1 win over Florida State in the opening game of the College World Series.
On college baseball's biggest stage, the TCU freshman, albeit an undefeated phenom, allowed Florida State center fielder Tyler Holt to slap a leadoff single to left field and put the Horned Frogs on alert.
Purke forced the Seminoles' second batter, Sherman Johnson, to chop a ball down the third-base line, but TCU's Jantzen Witte slung his throw wide of first base for a throwing error, allowing Holt to score and Johnson to advance to third.
"I said, 'Hey, this is all on you. Just regroup. You've done it all year,'" said senior catcher Bryan Holaday, the team's leader who called an infield conference on the mound after the horrid start. "Pitch like there's not a runner on third, and do your thing."
Purke did better, striking out the next three batters to allow the Horned Frogs to escape the inning with only one run on the board. The offense did the rest, scoring five in the bottom of the first and pushing TCU to an 8-1 win in its first-ever game at Rosenblatt Stadium in front of 23,649 fans, the largest crowd to ever see a TCU baseball game.
"You got a chance to see what we've seen all year," said TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle, who was honored as the national coach of the year before Saturday's game by the National College Baseball Writers Association. "The more pressure the situation, the more that he's cornered, the better that he is."
Purke allowed only two more hits from the last 26 batters he faced, totaling four for the game. He also struck out seven batters.
"I think it's a totally different ballgame if we're more patient and not swinging at stuff that's in the dirt. I think we helped him along the way," Holt said. "But that's what happens when you have good stuff. It looks like it's in the zone, and then it comes out."
Purke improved to 15-0 in 17 starts with the win and helped the Horned Frogs move to 52-12 and stay out of the losers' bracket. Florida State dropped to 47-19.
TCU batted around in the first inning, notching six hits and scoring five runs to take a commanding lead with Purke, who holds a 3.03 ERA, on the mound. Left fielder Jason Coats took the lead with a two-RBI double down the left-field line. Designated hitter Joe Weik and shortstop Taylor Featherson helped score runs with a single over the first baseman and a sac fly to right field, respectively.
Holaday slammed a solo home run into the left-field stands in the bottom of the fourth.
"Momentum in baseball is dictated by the pitcher," Schlossnagle said. "If everybody on the field is confident, and the pitcher's nervous, it's not going to look good. If everybody on the field is nervous and the pitcher's confident, it's probably going to turn out OK. And that's what I'm saying. Matt took control of the situation."