The Frogs battled OU in a rare non-conference game against their fellow Big 12 member, sending sophomore Tyler Alexander to the mound Tuesday night. After getting thumped by OSU Sunday, it was crucial for TCU to get back on track as they prepare for the meat of their schedule.
Alexander, who has been inconsistent at best, also needed a strong game - after losing his weekend slot several weeks back, he seems to have locked down the Tuesday night role, and solidified his grip on it against the Sooners. After giving up a run in the top of the first inning, Tyler went on lock down - at one point retiring nine straight Sooners and going six scoreless. Alexander had his good stuff, mixing in a filthy backdoor slider with his usual pinpoint command on the the fastball. The seven innings were crucial for the Frogs, as the bullpen was taxed by a couple uncharacteristically short starts by the TCU staff over the weekend. He would give way to trey Teakell in the eighth, in line for the win, and having looked really strong after some early trouble. He may have been better off staying in the game...
Defensively, TCU looked like... well, TCU again. The errors piled up over the weekend in a way we certainly aren't used to seeing from what has been an excellent fielding team on the season. Michael Landestoy made the start at first on the evening and made his presence known - coming from out of nowhere to snag a drive in the first and doing a really nice job all night long at the corner - despite his continued struggles offensively. A poor throw by Trey Teakell in the eighth would put the Frogs in all kinds of trouble, as the Sooners put down a nice bunt with two on, scoring one, to make it 3-2. Teakell would then balk in the tying run, and with one out, issue and intentional walk to the Sooner's shortstop, to put runners at the corners - that would end up being a great call, as they would catch him in a run down for the third out two batters later on an attempted steal. Teakell would surrender the lead, but at least held the tie and put the Frogs in position to take it back with two innings to go.
On offense, it was another slow start for the Frogs, who struggled to adjust to Jeffrey Curran - who did an incredible job mixing his pitches and keeping the TCU hitters off balance. He started to wear down in the third, and absolutely fell apart when he had to pitch from the stretch. Nolan Brown would draw a bases loaded walk to bring across the typing run. That would settle Alexander down, and when Cody Jones homered to lead off the fifth, it appeared that would be all he would need. Jones, who has now homered from both sides of the plate, started the rally, and fittingly, Derek Odell would finish it, as he ripped a single up the middle to score Connor Wanhanen two batters later. The 3-1 score would hold until the eighth, and the Frogs would frustratingly strand runner after runner in the game, including loading the bases twice, without being able to break things open. Cody Jones would rip a double with two outs in the eighth, but Connor Wanhanen couldn't bring him around, and the dramatic ending was set up once again.
Teakell would stay on in the ninth; Riley Ferrell had been warming up, but Schloss kept him in the pen with the game tied. Seeing the bottom third of the order, Teak opened with a swinging strikeout on a really nice slider, induce a line drive out to center for the second out, and allow a runner on a high chopper that Derek Odell corralled and made a good throw on - but the OU runner beat it out with a headfirst slide in to first. Teakell would snag a bouncing ball on the first pitch of the next at bat, and get out of the inning having held serve.
The Sooners would try and push it to extras by bringing in a new pitcher - their short stop, Sheldon Neuse. College baseball is the best. After shuffling their entire infield, Crain would come up to bat, and pop out to left center, as Neuse would touch the low 90's on his fastball. Skoug was up next, and with his 18 game hitting streak on the line, would foul out to deep left. Keaton would be the final out of regulation, as he was robbed of extra bases by a nice diving catch. We would head to the 10th, and yet another extra inning game early in the season for TCU.
The turning point of the game came, of course, with two down. A single would put the potential winning run on, and Neuse would rip one down the first base line, off of Landestoy's glove, but seemingly in foul territory. Schloss would come out and argue as angrily as I have seen (since USC at least) that the call was wrong. Maybe it was less about the call, and more about getting his team fired up, and a couple pitches later, a grounder to first would end the threat. In the bottom of the inning, Odell would go down looking, but Dane Steinhagen would get on base on a sharply hit ball to second that bounced off the second baseman's glove. Neuse would throw over to first about one million times, looking for Dane to run - the Frogs lead the Big 12 in steals, but only had one through the first nine innings Tuesday night. The distraction would work, as, with the hit and run on, Nolan Brown would hit one up the middle and off the short stop's glove. All of the changes to the OU infield would prove costly, as two costly mistakes put the winning run 90 feet away. Schloss would go to the dugout for a pinch hitter for the hitless Landestoy, and call upon freshman Austen Wade with the game on the line. The move would cause OU to go to the pen for a lefty, The move would also rotate the OU infield back to their starting positions, as Neuse would go back to short. With fans calling for the squeeze, Wade would take the first pitch, and bunt it foul on pitch #2. Protecting his face, Wade fouled off the bunt attempt on the third pitch, which hit off of his hand in the process. Wade would have to leave the game, bringing in Jeremie Fagnan, who would inherit a 1-2 count with one out. OU would pitch out, but allow Brown to take second, and waste a ball in the process. Fagnan would get a hold of the first pitch he saw in the box and bounce one back through the middle for a walk-off single and the extra inning win.
The exaltation shown by the Frogs shows how much they needed this win - to bounce back against a good OU team through some early and late adversity will go a long way late in the season when every pitch feels like it can send you home. Schloss showing some fire also showed that this mid week showdown meant more than just a win or a loss.
With a step back from Big 12 play ahead - TCU will welcome in the Shockers this weekend - the Frogs have a chance to regroup and buckle down ahead of a really tough stretch of conference games. Tyler Alexander's performance was definitely encouraging, and while the Frogs left 11 men on over the course of the game, their ability to manufacture a run late is also a good sign. Teakell settled in after getting himself in some trouble, and fought back to pitch three innings and take home the win.
TCU will square off against Wichita State Friday night at 6:30.