It wasn't the series that Frog fans hoped for, as TCU came rolling into Austin with a conference opening sweep and a pair come from behind wins in their back pockets to face a reeling Texas team that seemed on the verge of self-destruction. While UT legend Augie Guarrido has been crucified by Horns fans over the course of the last two seasons, it's easy to see why management has stuck by him - his retooling of the struggling bullpen breathed new life into UT's team and led to two dominant pitching performances against one of the deepest and dangerous lineups in all of baseball; stymying them to the tune of six total runs in the opening two games. But if there is something that we have learned about this young team a scant 22 games into the season, it's that they embody the model of their adopted teammate Micah Ahern, and never ever give up.
That mantra was repeated time and time again on a pleasant Saturday in Austin, which seemed to still possess the energy of the thousands of SXSW hipsters that had vacated just days before, as the Frogs clawed their way to nine runs; fending off effort after effort by a Horns team that was keen on sweeping one of the country's best teams and thus rocketing back into the discussion as a serious contender for the Big XII crown. TCU struck first as Elliot Barzilli, up a spot in the order as Schloss looked for a spark, singled to lead off the top of the second and advanced to second as the next batter, Josh Watson, reached safely as well. Connor Wanhanen's groundout advanced the runners, and Dane Steinghagen would plate Barz on a sac fly to right field. The inning would end on a Mason Hesse strikeout, and while you would like to see more than one run cross the plate when you open the frame with consecutive base hits, it surely built confidence to strike first.
Texas, on the other hand, was not phased in the slightest, answering in the bottom half of the second with three runs on the strength of four hits, a wild pitch, and an error, chasing starter Rex Hill after only 1.2 innings of work. Thankfully, the TCU pen was well-rested after Brian Howard's complete game gem Friday night, allowing Brian Trieglaff to come in for some long relief. He did his job, leaving the bases loaded after issuing a run-scoring walk to open his work. TCU answered back just a single inning later, starting a string of scoring that would last five consecutive innings. Texas made a tough choice, pitching conservatively around Evan Skoug after Cam Warner's one out double to get to Luken Baker - you know, the guy with the .338 average and 25 RBIs. He made the Horns pay, plating Warner by ripping a single up the middle. Barz would tie things up on a single a batter later, and TCU would hold serve in the bottom of the third, before adding runs in the fourth and the fifth to stretch the lead to 5-3. The Horns answered back in a big way in the bottom of the fifth, tying things up on a Tres Barrera two run shot that chased Trieglaff and gave Frog fans their first glimpse of the season of Ryan Burnett, pitching for the first time in several weeks. Burnett had a great outing in his return, scattering three hits over the course of 2.2 innings, striking out four, and showing why he is considered one of the most important arms for the stretch run.
TCU took the lead in what would be the defining inning of the game, as the offense exploded for three runs in the top of the sixth, led by the interesting choice to issue an intentional walk to Skoug to face Baker with one out and one on, and once again Baker came through with a single. A poor choice on a throw and an error, combined with intentional walks to Skoug and Barzilli, and timely hitting, gave the Frogs breathing room. Texas would threaten, but not score, in the bottom half, as Schloss would look to the generally reliable Preston Guillory to shut down the Horns through the late innings. Guillory was effective, allowing only a single hit through 1.1 innings and holding UT at bay as the Frog offense sputtered through the final frames. But TCU did add an insurance run in the ninth, highlighted by the first at-bat of the year for senior Nolan Brown, who seems to be inching closer to a full time return daily. Brown worked a walk after the Frogs added run number nine - Connor Wanhanen opened with a single and made it all the way around the bases on the back of a deep infield single by Mason Hesse, an error, and two passed balls. Durbin Feltman worked a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth, and while the extra run prevented him from earning his second save of the season, he continues to pitch exceptionally and inspire confidence in his stuff from coaches, teammates, and fans.
TCU runs their record to 18-5 overall and 4-2 in Big XII play, while Texas falls to 11-13 (2-1). Texas will face off against a very desperate Oklahoma team in Norman next weekend, but the good news is no one in Sooner country will care with Buddy and his pals heading to the Final Four. Meanwhile, TCU will step away from conference play for the next week, as they travel to UTA to take on the Mavs Tuesday before playing a series against the Shockers in Wichita.