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The Curse of Stillwater: TCU Loses Rubber Match, Series to OSU

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TCU rallied from a 10-1 deficit to make it a game, but couldn't complete the comeback. Stillwater, the place where nothing goes right for TCU, remains the Anti-Lupton, a place where black magic and chaos prevail.

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The TCU bullpen could not overcome the amount of work that was asked of them after a below-average weekend for TCU's starters
The TCU bullpen could not overcome the amount of work that was asked of them after a below-average weekend for TCU's starters
Melissa Triebwasser

For the third consecutive year, the Frogs were unable to get the better of Oklahoma State on the diamond. They're not quite at "Baylor" status, but I think they now hold the title of or most hated baseball rival. If Baylor were good in baseball that still wouldn't be true, but since they're not, that honor has to go to the Cowboys.

OSU really did win this series against all odds. Pitching wise they have a good team, so it's not a surprise that they got the better of us in a series where two of our starting pitchers didn't make it out of the third inning. What's surprising is the way that they won this series. On Friday night, Luken Baker had to leave the mound after 1 1/3 innings with soreness in his elbow. OSU proceeded to murder TCU's bullpen to the tune of nine runs behind a complete game shutout from their own starter, Thomas Hatch. Jared Janczak gave up five runs in three innings of work, Ryan Burnett gave up another in 2/3 innings and Drew Gooch allowed three more in his two innings of relief. TCU only managed five total hits in what was, overall, one of their worst performances of the season. Pretty much the only #BrightSide was that Baker stayed in the lineup and hit all weekend, indicating that his elbow issue wasn't a big concern.

On Saturday, the Frogs came back in a big way to take game two by a score of 11-6. Dalton Horton did what has quickly become the norm for our freshman phenom that has seemingly come out of nowhere to rise to dominance. He gave his team six solid innings, allowing only two runs on five hits. In doing so he kept OSU at bay long enough for TCU to build a comfortable lead, and by the time he left it was 11-2 with virtually no hope of the Cowboys getting back into it.  OSU threw five pitchers on Saturday and a total of 223 pitches, but the complete game by Hatch on Friday left them with enough quality bullpen depth to give them a good shot at taking the series on Sunday.

As things tend to do in Stillwater, the game on Sunday started out about as poorly as it possibly could have for the Frogs. I don't know what it is about that place, but if Lupton Stadium has the good kind of magic, then Stillwater's sports venues in general all must have been hexed by someone well trained in the dark arts. Since we have been members of the Big 12 our football and basketball teams have both never won a game there, and our baseball team has never won a series there. Last fall when our football team made the trip, Doctson got hurt early in the game and the Cowboys jumped out to a big lead that, despite being the better team, TCU just wasn't able to come back from. This weekend in baseball, it was the same story. Our star player, Baker, had an injury scare in the first game, causing us to have to burn through most of our best bullpen guys and putting us at a disadvantage that we were never able to overcome.

Brian Howard, who is our most experienced starter and the leader of this pitching staff, was chased from the game after just 2 2/3 innings, giving up seven runs on five hits in the process. After five innings TCU trailed by 10-1, and despite a valiant come back attempt which included a four run sixth inning, the Frogs couldn't do enough to reclaim the lead. TCU had the bases loaded with two outs in both the third and seventh innings, but they were never able to get the two-out hits that could made the difference. OSU on the other hand scored six of their runs in the third inning with two outs, with three of those runs coming in two-out, bases-loaded scenarios.

All of this is even more perplexing when you consider that OSU was hitting .245 as a team coming into this weekend. The bottom half of their lineup in particular, which accounted for nine hits and 10 runs on Sunday, was especially terrible. Most of those batters were hitting below .250 coming into the weekend. On top of all of that, the eight-run third inning in that deciding game was the best inning offensively that OSU has had all year. How do the Cowboys consistently over-preform against TCU in Stillwater while the Frogs best players either get hurt or have inexplicably bad games? Well...black magic...I guess.

The only thing that saved this weekend from being a complete and total disaster is that somehow, someway, some of that black magic was in play in Lubbock this weekend too. The Red Raiders have a long history of playing their worst when they are facing a Texas team to which they are clearly superior. That held true on Sunday as well. After losing 7-4 to the Longhorns on Saturday, the Red Raiders were run out of their home park in the rubber match, getting run-ruled by a score of 17-1.

All of this means that despite the terrible, horrible, no-good weekend for both teams, the showdown for conference supremacy between the Red Raiders and the Horned Frogs is still on for next weekend. Texas Tech still holds a two-game lead on the Frogs, which means that only a sweep in Fort Worth can catapult TCU into the conference lead. But considering that none of Tech's starters pitched all that well this weekend, a sweep all of a sudden seems possible. The top half of the Big 12 conference standings, which includes the only teams that can be considered contenders at this point, look like this:

School Big 12 Overall Pct.
Texas Tech 12 - 3 31 - 12 0.721
TCU 10 - 5 28 - 10 0.737
Oklahoma State 9 - 6 25 - 14 0.641
Texas 9 - 6 19 - 21 0.475

Even though TCU can take over the lead in the standings with a sweep this coming weekend, the Horns and the Cowboys are lurking just one game back. Since TCU has already lost series to both of those teams, what was a two team race is all of a sudden looking like it could come right down to the wire. I would imagine that TCU is likely out of national seed contention at this point, but a 4-0 week against Dallas Baptist and Texas Tech could flip things in our favor very quickly. This week will be the week that we learn more about our young team than we have all season. All we can hope for is that they are healthy, focused and up to the challenge.