In a "rebuilding" year, with their two best starting pitchers and lead-off hitter injured, TCU still had a chance on Sunday with two outs in the ninth inning to tie the game against the Red Raiders and win a series that would put them just one game back in the race for their second straight regular season Big 12 title. All things considered, you have to call that a positive. They were not supposed to be this good. Even if that insight gets lost among the frustration of how good this team might be if they were completely healthy, It it wouldn't be fair to dismiss it.
In the first inning TCU immediately mounted a threat after a walk and a double put two Frogs in scoring position with no outs. A pop up and two strike outs around a walk to Luken Baker from the heart of the order set the tone for what was a frustrating offensive outing. TCU failed to drive in a run seven times today when they had runners in scoring position. Four of those seven missed opportunities were strike outs. Credit Tech's pitching, which was good for most of the game, and their tough team-mentality that allowed them to take control of their opportunities and control a tight game. They are a good team, and should they win it, they will be well deserving of the conference crown. But you can't say that TCU didn't have their chances.
Texas Tech broke a scoreless tie with two runs on two hits in the third inning. Rex Hill gave up a walk to Floyd to start the inning, who then advanced to third on a double before scoring on an RBI ground out. After a hit batter and another walk by Hill, Gutierrez flied out to center for the second RBI of the inning. After that, another single by Neslony loaded the bases, but Hill was able to get a groundout to limit the damage. The Red Raiders only other score came in the fifth on a wild pitch from Sean Wymer, who had just come in to relieve Hill.
Aside from those painful mistakes, TCU;s pitching staff performed well in the rubber match. Hill went 4 2/3 innings, giving up three runs on four hits. That would have been considered a good outing for Hill, had he not issued five walks which was uncharacteristic for him considering he'd given up only 10 all year in the 36 2/3 innings prior. Wymer and Feltman combined to give up only two hits and no runs over the final 4 1/3 innings, although Wymer did allow a run (credited to Hill) on a wild pitch.
The only run of the game for TCU came from Elliott Barzilli, who led off the sixth inning with a double. He advanced to third shortly after on a wild pitch, but the throw to third from the catcher was off, allowing him to come home and score on the play. TCU had runners on base in six innings with runners in scoring position in four of them, including the ninth, but left 10 total on base when all was said and done. The Frogs also barely missed getting a two run homer twice; once from Warner in the first and again from Steinhagen in the fourth. Warner's ball was about a foot short of going over the wall and resulted in a double. Steinhagen's was about a foot wide of hitting the right field foul pole, and his at-bat resulted in a strike out.
In the ninth, Steinhagen got a one out single, but ended up getting caught in a rundown between first and second for the second out of the inning. Wanhanen followed that up with a walk and Merrill, who was in to pinch-hit for Hesse, ripped a double to right to put two runners in scoring position with two outs. The double would have scored Steinhagen and pulled the Frogs within one had it not been for the pick off. Landestoy came in next to pinch-hit for Wade in an attempt to tie up the game and force extras. While he made contact, he just hit it a little too good, and flew out to right to end the game. The loss drops TCU to 30-12 on the year and 11-7 in conference play, three games behind Texas Tech who now sit at 34-13 (14-4 in Big 12).
There's no denying that this TCU team is very good. If they take care of business in the next three weeks they have a great case to host a regional, but, for now, greatness continues to elude them. While Nolan Brown ended up taking a medical redshirt this year, Mitchell Traver is scheduled to return to the starting rotation next weekend against Penn State. Luken Baker is still in the lineup every day, and is week-to-week as a pitcher. But there is still the possibility that he also makes it back to further strengthen the Frog's starting pitching. Whether we get these players back or not, TCU has been bordering on great all year, and early May is still to early to say they won't reach that next level come postseason play.