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TCU Beats UTA 5-1 Behind Strong Pitching from Horton, Bullpen

The Frogs won a game today in unfamiliar fashion, but in the process they proved that they can stay sharp in games where they don't have the benefit of a double-digit lead.

The Frogs win another one in their fresh mid-week jerseys
The Frogs win another one in their fresh mid-week jerseys

Last year a 5-1 victory was a pretty comfortable margin of victory for the Frogs. We would have looked at that as a really nice performance from an offensive standpoint. Tonight, it felt a little uneasy. It shouldn't have, because TCU's pitching staff has been unbelievable this year.  We have given up five runs to an opponent only one time, and the Frogs own the nation's top ERA at a crazy low 1.12. Still, a four run lead didn't exactly make you feel comfortable facing a team that has been pretty good at the plate this year.

It could be that we're so used to seeing this team put up double-digit runs that a five spot kind of made you feel like "come on guys, hit a three run bomb already". It could be that, or it could be the fact that tonight's game looked a lot like the game that the Frogs lost on Friday night against Gonzaga.  It didn't matter though. The Frogs pitching staff didn't blink tonight, and the offense was able to put it together late and push across an insurance run in the eight that made everybody breathe a little easier.

Dalton Horton improved on last week's performance and turned in a quality start. He went five innings, allowing only two hits and one run (unearned) while striking out two and walking just one batter. It didn't start out as pretty as it ended up though. UTA's lead-off hitter reached base on an error by 2B Cam Warner and Horton promptly hit  the Maverick's second batter on the very next pitch. Then, he walked the next batter to load the bases for UTA's clean up hitter Quintin Rohrbaugh. A double play and a line out ended that inning with only one run scoring, and that was all UTA would muster on a day when TCU's pitching staff ended up with a 0.00 ERA.

TCU answered quickly with Wanhanen and Skoug getting walked around a fly out by Warner. A double steal had runners on second and third for Baker when he doubled home two runs. Horton worked three up, three down innings in the second and third while TCU was unable to add to their lead. In the fourth Horton gave up a single, but only faced four batters before the Frogs pulled away in the bottom of the frame. Watson was hit by a pitch to open up the bottom of the fourth, followed by a single from Barzilli and a double from Merrill that scored Watson to make it 3-1.  Steinhagen grounded out next, scoring Barzilli from third and Wade got a ball in play that should have scored Merrill, who was out at home on a very questionable call. It was so bad that it had Schlossnagle immediately up to the plate to argue the call. Even though Wanhanen singled to put Wade in scoring position, Warner popped out to second to end the inning. Horton now has a 2-0 record in his two starts and he still owns a perfect 0.00 ERA.

Horton finished up the fifth inning and gave way to redshirt freshman Jared Janczak to start the sixth. Jancazk, who had never pitched an inning for TCU a month ago, now leads the entire bullpen in innings pitched, strike outs and wins. He struck out the first two batters he faced with the same nasty breaking ball on his way to a three up, three down inning of his own. In the seventh inning Janczak remained on the bump, facing only four batters and giving up a single. Not to toot my own horn too much, but I have to mention that I pointed out Janczak as a freshman to keep an eye on after I saw him pitch in the alumni game a month ago.

Durbin Feltman took the mound in the eighth and gave up a couple of hits, but had really impressive velocity on his fastball. He was sitting at 93-94 mph and touched 95 a couple of times. Oh, he's also a freshman BTW, and he played on the same high school team as Luken Baker. So we have both of those studs for the next few years, which is nice. With runners on first and second and one out, Feltman got the strike out to put him in a good situation with Quintin Rohrbaugh coming back up to bat. Rohrbaugh flew out to end the inning and keep UTA from cooking up any two-out magic.

Baker came out to open up the bottom of the eight with a single, and Watson and Barzilli both worked walks to load the bases with no outs. Merrill struck out, but Steinhagen grounded out next to push in his second RBI of the game. Nolan Brown was in the game and took an at-bat next. He laid down a nice bunt to third, but somehow he was thrown out to end the inning even though the UTA third baseman was playing super deep. Brian Trieglaff came on to start the ninth and earned his second save of the season facing only four batters.

It wasn't the prettiest game that the Frogs have played this year, but I think that that is the win they really needed right now. I think it will help them a lot from a confidence standpoint to know that they can win games without scoring 10 runs. They have won close games this year, but those games were three weeks ago at this point. I think that this win will serve a nice reminder to them going into a really exciting series at home this weekend when they host the USC Trojans.