This Loyola Marymount team can play some ball. They have given this young TCU team all they could handle in the first two games of this series. Even with the injury of the would-be Friday starter Mitchell Traver, 5,116 fans showed up on opening day expecting this talented roster to produce a win.
LMU's starter Busfield pitched a good game going 5 2/3 innings with seven strike outs, zero walks, 10 hits and three earned runs, the whole while living around 93-95 with his fastball. TCU got plenty of hits, but couldn't find consistent success in their lineup, leaving eight men on base on the evening. It looked like we would take control in the sixth when TCU tied the game at 3-3, but a couple of late runs by ULM sealed the loss for the Frogs. TCU looked uncomfortable offensively and at times downright confused defensively in what was, overall, a frustrating loss.
But that was yesterday. The same group of talented young men who looked out of sync yesterday looked much more focused and confident this afternoon as they fought ULM tooth and nail to a 1-0 victory.
In the first inning, a one out double had ULM in scoring position early, but after a sac fly moved the runner to third, Brian Howard managed his first strike out to end the inning. That was the beginning of a great performance by Howard as he earned the W in his first outing as a starter in the weekend rotation. Over 6 1/3 innings he allowed only three hits and no runs, striking out five and walking two in the process.
After giving up that hit in the first Howard settled in and allowed ULM to get into scoring position only two more times before he left the mound. His most impressive moment came in the sixth inning. He hit the first batter he faced and immediately allowed a single to put runners on first and second with TCU clinging to a 1-0 lead. Howard responded by striking out the next two batters he faced before forcing a groundout to end the inning and preserve the lead.
Offensively, TCU still had a tough time getting much going. On the day they left six runners stranded. It seemed like we were often able to get runners on base early, but were unable to capitalize. Mostly this was the same story as yesterday as we were either unable to get that timely hit, or we made baserunning mistakes that led to outs. I'll give credit to ULM for being pretty sharp defensively.
That timely hit did come in the third inning though and it was the only one we needed. Wanhanen got on base with a two out single and stole second to get into scoring position. Second baseman Cam Warner was able to punch a single through the left side to bring Wanhanen home. Barzilli had a especially good day at the plate going two for three. He was standing at third with a chance to score in the seventh, but got caught in a rundown trying to get home. At this point in the season, I'm not concerned about the lack of offensive production. It's obvious after two games that we have a lot of talented hitters in this lineup. The runs will come. We just need to be patient and give this lineup a chance to gel.
Defensively the Frogs looked a lot sharper. They turned a double play in the second to end the inning and at different points Warner and Barzilli both had impressive jumping catches which they turned into outs at first base. The bullpen was also pretty stout once Howard left the game. Drew Gooch relieved him in the seventh inning to face a lefty, but ended up hitting him and was pulled for Preston Guillory. Guillory came in with a runner on second and got the final two outs in that inning. In the eighth he struck out the first and last batters he faced, working around a fielding error. Finally, the question of who our new closer would be was answered when Brian Trieglaff took the mound to start the ninth with Riley Ferrell's old entry music playing. To back up that showmanship, Trieglaff delivered by putting together a nice three up, three down inning to earn the save.
The Frogs will get the chance to take the series with the highly anticipated pitching debut of Freshman Luken Baker this morning at 11:30 (first pitch was moved up due to inclement weather). For now, the Frogs earned their first victory of the season. Let's all take a deep breath and enjoy it.