We were all excited to hear about Luken Baker as a recruit. A guy who could do it all. Back in our baseball season preview Marsh compared him to Pepperdine's Aaron Brown, who TCU baseball fans will remember well from the 2014 Fort Worth Super Regional. On Friday and Saturday he played pretty well in the DH spot, but batting .250 with one RBI over the first two games was a little underwhelming considering the huge expectations that we all had for him. Is that unfair to say of a freshmen starting in his first collegiate series? Yes, it is incredibly unfair, but I am a greedy, unreasonable fan and I wanted more. Well Baker didn't care that I am unreasonable. He obliged anyway.
After struggling on offense in the first two games of this series, Luken Baker's two run homer in the fifth inning pulled TCU out of a tight 1-0 contest in the pivotal rubber match of the Frog's first series of the year. You've all heard of a baker's dozen, well I'm going to call Luken's two-run blast a "Baker's double". I have a feeling that I'll have a few more chances to make that pun this year. Baker wasn't the only player who had a great day today, and I'll get to the other great performances in a bit, but first I have to talk about what he was able to do on the mound.
It's pretty darn impressive for a freshman to go six innings in his first collegiate start while striking out six and allowing only one hit and one walk. It's even more impressive for that same freshman to leave the mound after the top of every inning and bat for himself. To be fair, he did hit the first batter that he faced in both the sixth and seventh innings, but I think it's safe to say that he still exceeded everyone's expectations. He didn't allow a single hit until the fourth inning and he only allowed two runners into scoring position over his six innings. It was just an awesome performance overall and I could go on, but I've gushed enough.
When Baker left the mound in the seventh inning TCU was up 3-0 and Ryan Burnett was brought out to relieve him. As I said before, Baker had hit the first batter he faced in the seventh, so Burnett was facing a baserunner when he came into the game. Burnett promptly hit the next batter, and Guillory was immediately brought in for Burnett, now with two baserunners to face. Guillory gave up a hit to the first batter he faced to load the bases. At that point I was a little worried that things might unravel, but Guillory struck out the next two batters and the threat ended harmlessly when the next batter got out on an infield pop up.
TCU brought out Durbin Feltman to start the eighth and he did well, going three up, three down with a strike out. Freshman Dalton Brown got a chance to close this game, but was pulled for Brian Trieglaff after he walked his first batter. After a ground out, Trieglaff gave up his first hit of the season to put runners on the corners, but he remained steady and forced a ground ball double play to seal the victory for the Frogs.
Offensively, Elliott Barzilli just continued his scorching hot streak. He went three for four today, but over the first three games he is batting .636. Amazingly he has no RBIs, but he did finally score a run for all of his brilliance at the plate. Evan Skoug and JUCO transfer Mason Hesse also had a good day at the plate. Skoug opened up the scoring with a sac fly RBI for the second day in a row and Hesse had a two RBI single in the eighth to give TCU some insurance.
The Frogs scored their five runs on 10 hits. They still left eight men on base today, but they got seven runners in scoring position. That, and Baker's two run blast, was the difference between Sunday's game and the previous two. All weekend we were able to get hits, but the first two days we had a LOT of Frogs get out at second base because they were caught either stealing or trying to stretch a single into a double. We also had a runner at third base get caught in a pickle trying to get home on BOTH Friday and Saturday.
To lose a tough game on Friday night and then come back to record shutout victories the next two games says a lot about this team. They may be young, but they are as talented offensively as we thought they were. The pitching staff had enough juice to put up two donuts even without their ace Mitchell Traver. The bullpen looks like it could be as strong as we have come to expect with Guillory, Trieglaff, Burnett and Janczek pitching the way they did this weekend. Oh, by the way, did I mention that Nolan Brown, one of the senior leaders on the team didn't have a single at bat in this series? He played a little CF, but didn't appear at the plate due to an injured hand. Word is he'll be fully healthy and back either this weekend or the next, and hopefully Traver will be back in time for the Texas series 3/24/16.
A lot of questions were answered this weekend. The only big one that remains right now is who the heck is going to start this Tuesday night's game?