TCU got back to their winning ways this weekend, as they took the series against the Nittany Lions in State College, bolstered by a double-header sweep Saturday. Sunday's win gave them the sweep, but even more important than the victory may be the return to the rubber of pitcher Mitchell Traver, who threw his first live action of the season Sunday afternoon.
Weather forced the Friday opener to be played Saturday morning, but body clocks weren't an issue for the visitors, as TCU jumped out to an early lead and rode an excellent performance by Brian Howard to a 6-2 win. Howard, who had struggled somewhat in his previous two starts (against Oklahoma State and Texas Tech), bounced back in a big way against the Nittany Lions, throwing seven shutout innings and surrendering a scant four hits. He was bolstered by an efficient TCU offense, one that was pillared by Cam Warner's four hit day. Five different Frogs knocked in the five earned runs, including Barzilli's solo shot in the second. Durbin Feltman got the save, his fourth of the season, and he only had to get one out to do so; he rescued the Frogs from a bases loaded jam in the bottom of the ninth with two outs to secure the win.
In the afternoon tilt, it was time for the freshmen to shine, as Luken Baker and Josh Watson carried the offense with their big bats. TCU fell behind for the first time in the series, as Dalton Horton surrendered a pair of walks and a pair of hits in the first to fall behind 2-0. The Frogs fought right back, as Baker led off with a double and Watson jacked a two run shot to tie things up. TCU would take the lead on Connor Wanhanen's run, scored on the strength of a Dane Steinhagen double off of the wall. Jared Janczak did the heavy lifting from the bullpen, coming to the hill in the second and spreading out nine hits over 5.1 innings, and giving up a pair of runs. TCU scored it's fourth run of the game as Ryan Merrill singled and scored after a pair of errors, and Luken Baker drove in the run that would gibe the Frogs the win, scoring Evan Skoug in the eighth. Penn State would load the bases again in the ninth, but Brian Trieglaff earned his second save of the season as he pitched his way out of trouble, holding on to the 5-4 victory.
Sunday's game was a back and forth affair that saw TCU earn victory number 33, and the long awaited return of ace Mitchell Traver. In his first start of the season, Traver went two innings of one hit ball, struck out three, and walked one. It's an encouraging sign for a program that desperately needs another veteran arm to compliment a young staff for the post-season push. For the second time in the series, TCU scored first, breaking through for a pair of runs on Josh Watson's second two-run bomb of the weekend in the top of the third. PSU answered with a run in the bottom of the frame, and tied things up at two an inning later. The Frogs fought back to take the lead on the strength of a three run fifth, as Baker singled home run number three, and Skoug scored on a wild pitch to make it 4-2. Barzilli doubled home the fifth run of the game shortly thereafter, giving TCU a three-run cushion. But the Nittany Lions weren't ready to seceded quite yet, as they got a solo shot in the bottom of the fifth and tied things up in the seventh. The relentless offense of the Frogs would not be denied, as Barz added an RBI to his total in the sixth to retake the lead, and Steinhagen and Merrill brought in two more in the top of the ninth to account for the 9-5 final score. Preston Guillory was rewarded for his 2.2 innings of scoreless work with the victory, and TCU takes home a series sweep for the first time since the Oklahoma series - another three game set that opened with a double-header.
Having fallen to third in the conference standings, TCU has some work to do in their final two series of the conference season, as they travel to Waco next week for a tilt with Baylor before finishing the regular season at home against Kansas State. They will need to take care of business on their end - and likely sweep at least one of their final two series, as well as see the teams above them falter - to have a shot at one of the top two spots and an opening-round bye in the Big 12 tourney. But, for now, they can only worry about what they can control, starting with a Tuesday night home game against SFA.