The ball mashing lineup that had led to seven straight wins and a 40-2 run differential was noticeably absent for TCU Friday night against a team from the Pacific Northwest that played the disciplined, patient, and perfect baseball generally expected from the home squad. The timely hitting and patient at bats that had brought them so much success to this point was nowhere to be found, as the Frogs fell flat Friday night at Lupton, ending their seven game winning streak.
The game slogged on early, as the Frogs were never quite able to string together a big inning. A Ryan Merrill double with two outs in the second would get TCU on the scoreboard, as he scored from second on a Dane Steinhagen single a batter later. The third opened with a Connor Wanhanen triple, and Evan Skoug's double would plate the second run of the game. TCU would score a single run for the third straight inning, but the Zags had struck back in the top half, ending the 15+ inning scoreless streak that Luken Baker had opened his career with.
The issues began in the fifth, as Luken Baker was caught napping at first after taking a big lead, was easily picked off to end a good threat for the Frogs. That would be TCU's last base runner until they were one out away in the bottom of the ninth, and the momentum noticeably shifted at that point. Baker exited the game with one out in the sixth, having given up five hits and a run, but still in line for a win as the Frogs led 3-1. Ryan Burnett would come in to relieve Baker, inheriting a runner on first. A single up the middle put runners on the corner with one out, and a sacrifice fly one batter later brought the Zags within a run. A strikeout ended the threat, but the tide had turned against the home team.
Preston Guillory opened the seventh, coming off his perfect inning, three strike out performance against Houston on Sunday. It would not be more of the same, as a squeaker through the middle and a bloop single to center put Gonzaga in business with one out. A double tied things up, and the Zags would take the lead on a sac fly with the next batter, breaking the season-long scoreless streak for the TCU bullpen and putting the Frogs in a position they hadn't spent much time in since the opening night of the season - behind. Freshman Durbin Feltman was the next pitcher to get the call, and he got out of trouble by inducing an easy groundout to second to end the threat for the time being.
Gonzaga pitcher Brandon Bailey came back out in the seventh, despite having thrown nearly 100 pitches through the first six, and made quick work of TCU, striking out Wanhanen to end the inning, his ninth punch out of the evening. On the other side, Feltman struggled, loading the bases with two outs in the top of the eighth as he struggled with his control and hit two batters. But after a ten pitch battle, Feltman got the groundout he needed, maintaining the single run deficit with just six outs to go.
In relief, and likely to the (temporary) relief of Schloss' squad, the Zags would turn to the bullpen for the final two frames, as Bailey exited with the hopes to hold on to the lead and get the win against a top ten squad on their home field. Warner struck out looking, his third time being rung up on the evening, the tenth for TCU - five of which were looking. Skoug followed with a one pitch fly out, and Baker grounded out the pitcher for the third out - the ninth straight batter retired for the home team.
Janczak was given the ball in the ninth, and he would make quick work of the heart of the Gonzaga order, ending his the top of the ninth with a strikeout. Josh Watson opened the bottom of the ninth, and become strikeout victim number 11, swinging through some high cheese. Elliot Barzilli, who hit several balls hard - but right at defenders - had more of the same bad luck, as he smoked one towards the third baseman, who bobbled the ball but made a great throw to beat Barz to the bag. With one out to go, Ryan Merrill came to the plate, and he would find a little #LuptonMagic, roping a ball down the right field line for a triple past the diving outfielder. The Bulldogs went to the pen, bringing in redshirt freshman Bies to face Dane Steinhagen, and he did his job, striking him out to end the ball game.
For the Frogs, it's just their second loss of the year, both on Friday nights at home, and both against pitchers who threw some of the best ball of their life. Only Ryan Merrill had more than one hit for TCU, and Warner, Watson, and Merrill struck out two or more times. Dane Steinhagen also had two RBIs. While it's not a devastating loss, there are some concerns, namely in the vein of strikeouts and runners left on base. The defense seemed a little slow off the crack of the bat at times, and the pitching staff struggled with control - three hit batters, two walks, and ten hits allowed - but at the end of the day, Gonzaga was just the better team in the batters box and on the field this night. TCU will get a chance to even the series up Saturday afternoon at 2:00pm, turning to Rex Hill on the bump to start their next winning streak.