Up until Sunday, all of TCU’s losses had come by a score of 7-6--and two of those three losses came in extra innings. This tells us a couple of things. For one, this team doesn’t capitulate. Second, it tells you that this Frog team in 2015 is scoring a lot more than they were in 2014. There’s no more voodoo, prayers, and hopes for a Boomer White bailout that would happen far too often last season. TCU’s final stretch of games: dogfights that began with the lowest seeded team in the Fort Worth Regional, Siena. Eight of the next nine games were decided by one run or less, and in their final two College World Series games; both of which were losses, the Frogs never scored more than 4. But in 2015, the Frogs aren’t giving opponents this sort of tether, and because of that, you’re going to need a lot of runs to beat the 2015 version of TCU baseball.
Oklahoma State is a tremendously well designed ball club, and after a rocky start their first couple of weeks, the Cowboys went into Fort Worth with something to prove. And they did just that. Keeping up with the spirit they of found in Los Angeles at first, the Frogs rebounded off of a 7-6 extra innings loss with a win Saturday (again, the winning total was 7), but thanks to costly errors Sunday (7 runs again by OSU), they suffered their first series loss of the year—thus proving that the Big 12 is wide open.
Oklahoma State came into this weekend with a little bit of a chip on their shoulder. For one, the conversation was tilted towards TCU, and understandably so. Until Friday’s game, the Frogs had a winning streak dating back to rebound win over UCLA over two weeks ago. So for the Cowboys to go in Friday, get Jon Perrin’s best performance of the year, while rattling Mitchell Traver, proved, among many things, that they’re in legitimate Big 12 title contention--a title which, would be their second straight. Mitchell Traver came down to Earth Friday, and while he was far from inadequate, he wasn’t the Traver that we’ve seen the past month or so. Traver’s step back also had a lot to do with his Friday night adversary, Jon Perrin. Perrin, who entered the game with over 4.35 ERA, and despite a slow start, really found his groove in the mid-innings, and the TCU bats were silenced until OSU went to their bullpen. Cody Jones was nearly the hero in Friday’s game after knocking in the tying run on triple that he put in the
Though he his hitting has been sporadic, and he slumped early in the season; when Derek Odell is on, he makes the offense truly dangerous. After Cody Jones grinded out an infield single and stole second, and Connor Wanhanen advanced and scored Jones on tying single--Odell’s hitting in the first inning opened up the gate and broke the game open allowing the Frogs to respond with 3-run first inning.The rest of the game was basically TCU just keeping the Cowboys in check, slowly adding to their lead throughout the rest of the game. I’m not going to get what I want--but that’s okay, because the way it’s going now, it’s effective. I’m talking of course, about the second spot in the batting order. Too many viable options for that spot isn’t a bad problem to have, and Connor Wanhanen was fire when succeeding Cody Jones all Friday and Saturday: 6 hits, 3 runs, and 2 RBIs. Being an unapologetic fan of shifts, I should be higher on a constantly changing lineup, because while it wasn’t what I wanted initially, it’s certainly what I, as a fan of this team, needs.
TCU had a little more control in Saturday’s game, despite the fact that Oklahoma State’s feistiness still remained, and evened the series. The game was a milestone for Preston Morrison, who in the 6th inning, became TCU’s all time leader in innings pitched. Just like in the Baylor game last week, the Cowboys took advantage of uncharacteristic leadoff walk by Morrison and took an early 1-0 lead after their big man, Conor Castello drove in a run on a two out base hit. Thanks to his offense slowly adding to the lead, Morrison was able to pitch with a little more comfort and the Cowboys in check throughout the rest of the game. Despite an uncharacteristically high number of pitches for Morrison (115), he still demonstrated why he’s a pitcher who has yet to lose a game this season; finishing Saturday with 9 strikeouts, 3 walks, and 3 earned runs on 6 hits. Again, not Morrison’s best day, but still indicative of the kind of pitcher he is and how he’ll more often than not find a way to win by painting corners like he’s making Banksy political statements.
Sunday’s game felt a lot like a playing the Big 12 Champion. The 7-2 win by OSU to clinch the series was a wakeup call for TCU. This conference is still wide open and the next two months are going to be absolutely crazy. The good news for TCU is that they play a lot of home games. But back to Sunday: First and foremost, Michael Freeman was absolutely dominant. Alex Young started off great and worked out of early james, but the game really went off the rails in the 3rd inning when the Cowboys put up 6 earned runs with 2 outs. After a bad throw by Odell to Elliot Barzilli at 1st, which would’ve ended the inning, Oklahoma State capitalized; putting the ball in the ball in play, getting on base, and collecting multi-base hits--scoring 6 runs and pretty much ended the game for the Frogs.
I was completely fine with the pitching this weekend. None of the Fantastic Four were in the form they've shown so far this season, but the three weekend starters plus Riley Ferrell all looked fine. Oklahoma State is just a really good ballclub and with that, comes an understanding as to why your starters were just a half-step behind where they usually are. But damn, those errors. Both in the Friday game and in the finale on Sunday, TCU more or less lost those games because of one terrible inning of defense. Should Traver throw the guy out at 1st on Friday, and Odell the same on Sunday--maybe TCU gets out of the weekend with a sweep, and at least a series win. I don't want to call out any one person and sound vindictive, but I think we all share a frustration with one player's defense; because it's been a concern for a long time.
While the weekend certainly didn't go as planned, this is still a really great team, a Top 5 team who, like last season, isn't going to quit. Mix that in with superb talent on the bump, and a better offense than last year--there's still plenty of reason to believe that this team will return to Nebraska like Saul Goodman working at a Cinnabon. Most importantly this weekend, we learned that the Big 12 race is wide open, and while TCU’s still might be the frontrunner, this series was a necessary wake up call.