ARLINGTON, TX – TCU Baseball got no breaks in the season opener against Ole Miss, with a myriad of reviews going against them and 11 runners stranded – seven in scoring position – at night. Things were a little different Sunday, though, and it was a relief for Frog fans.
TCU, in the visiting clubhouse for game two, came on board early, thanks to a couple of Mississippi State errors at the top of the first. After not leading at all against Rebs, they led straight out of the gate against the Bulldogs, when Tommy Sacco turned a lead, a stolen base and a couple of errors into the game’s first run.
On the mound, Russell Smith was strong in his first inning of the new season, and put the side down in order thanks to a couple of ground balls and a strike. 6’9 “lefty did something his opponent on the opening day could not: got out of trouble in the second.
Smith quickly made work of the first batter he encountered, and seemed ready to come out unscathed after following Hatcher’s single with another strike. But a mistake by Conner Shepherd in the third put two on with two out for the Bulldogs, who were in a prime position to tie the game up. But Smith was also primed, getting Cumbest looking for his fourth strike of the game and ending the threat.
“I thought he was very good,” Schlossnagle said of his starter. “He has been our most consistent starting pitcher throughout the autumn – the difference for him now is that he never had a smooth ball, but the slider is really effective. He can do many things – when he is healthy, he is the best starting jug we have. ”
TCU would threaten at the top of the fourth, putting runners on second and third without outs thanks to Gene Woods’ lead and Austin Henry’s double. But the next three strokes would go down without running the runners, keeping things tight 1-0 in favor of the frogs.
The Bulldogs beat a game at the bottom of the fifth, with Hancock turning an 11 pitch on bat into a leading single. But Russell Smith did not; even after Hancock advanced to third on a wild pitch and throwing error by Zach Humphreys, Smith broke in and knocked his team down, ending the inning on a swinging strike to turn the tide in favor of the frog.
They were able to capitalize on it in the sixth.
Hunter Wolfe opened things up with a single and took second when Wood went for the second time in the game. Both runners advanced at a wild pitch, and Wolfe scored on a ground ball from Austin Henry’s bat to make it 2-0 TCU. Zach Humphreys was next and hit a double play, and despite appearing to have hit the throw first, he was confirmed on review.
The Bulldogs came on the board at the bottom of the sixth when Jordan sent one over the left middle fence and into the TCU bullpen. Smith gave his first turn of the day two strokes later, and that was all Schloss and Saarloos needed to see, lifting him for Marcelo Perez. One-time approachers did their job, inducing an inning-ending double play and limiting the damage. Smith’s finish line: 5.1 laps, one run of three hits, six strikes and one walk.
The frogs hit back on the seventh thanks to their freshmen. Luke Boyers earned a base on a hit from the field, and Elijah Nunez got him all the way to third on his first career hit – a shot to the right center which he ran into a double. Tommy Sacco’s sacrifice fly made it a 3-1 match, but TCU would certainly regret not adding to the total.
Like Saturday, Sunday’s match was a story of lost opportunities. After stranding 11 in the opening, the frogs left too many at the base in game two – eight – but the difference between Saturday and Sunday was that the Bulldogs left more. And it hurt them in the last frame.
Perez went out in the season debut until he was not, and although “I wish he had finished the game,” Schlossnagle said, he had to finish with an out on ninth. After chopping off his fifth strike of the game to open the final frame, Perez surrendered his back against a setback, a double off the wall in the middle and an RBI single that cut the lead to 3-2. Augie Mihlbauer came in to finish the match, but his header was blocked by the keeper. However, the referee was unimpressed, and booked him for diving.
Schloss had a tough decision to make there, and chose to roll with real novice Garrett Wright, who was to debut in a ball game with two on and 16,000 fans who let him hear it. “It’s not fair to me to put him in that position for his first college appearance,” Schlossnagle said. “But we felt that when he’s on, he’s the best guy to get a turn and miss.”
It would take a while, but his faith in the freshman would be born out.
Wright’s first five courses were balls – the first four that led to a trip to load the bases. But his sixth was the game-winner, as he induced an inning-ending double-play ball to retain the 3-2 victory. “I was a little nervous about him,” Russell Smith, who earned the victory, said after the game. “But he is one of the best out there. He’s prepared – and he’s better than me as a freshman. I was a little nervous, but he got the ground we needed to win. ”
Schlossnagle apologized for the missed opportunity once again and said: «the guys who were at the plate, they have played enough baseball. They do not try to make outs, do not try to get out, but veteran players must perform when given the opportunity. “
Running his record to 1-1 is a big deal for the Frogs, who must face a really good Arkansas team in the final on Monday night. Getting the first win under your belt helps, and doing so in this atmosphere is the icing on the cake, according to Smith. “There is no better, no better atmosphere in college baseball. Being in front of 16,000 people with my teammates, it was amazing. ”
The Frogs had only four hits on Sunday, but scored three runs in spite of that – even though most of the damage came with walking (seven) or errors (two). TCU had two doubles and struck out eight times, but got the big players they needed in big moments thanks to the pitching staff.
Tomorrow night’s final against Arkansas will be the season debut for Austin Krob, another highly espioned arm who wants his hands full with the potent Razorback offense. The first pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m.