What has happened to Brian Howard?
After allowing four first inning runs a week ago to LSU, Howard struggled mightily against a good UC Irvine team Friday night, surrendering eight first inning runs before the second out was recorded. Howard was pulled after facing ten batters, to whom he allowed eight hits and surrendered one walk. He was charged with all eight runs. Freshman Jake Eissler replaced Howard and inherited some trouble, but pitched his way mostly out of the jam by holding UCI to just one it and recording the final two outs of the frame. Eissler cruised until the fifth inning, holding UCI to just one baserunner over the next three innings.
Meanwhile, TCU looked sluggish and rushed in the box, struggling to find gaps in the defense and being held hitless through the first three. But they broke through in the fourth: after Evan Skoug led off with a walk and Luken Baker struck out, Josh Watson singled Skoug to third, advancing to second on the throw. Nolan Brown followed with an RBI groundout, and Cam Warner pushed Watson across a batter later with a single to third. The two run inning looked like it might spark something, but Irvine’s pitcher, Louis Raymond, settled back in and held the mighty TCU offense down from there.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Anteaters would find more scoring, as back to back doubles opened things up off of Eissler to make it 9-2. But the young righty, who was so impressive last weekend in Houston, bounced back with a pair of strikeouts and a pop up to end the threat. The Frogs sent the heart of their dangerous lineup to the order in the bottom of the inning, but the trio of Skoug, Baker, and Watson went down in order. UCI would not repay the favor in the bottom of the frame though, as Keston Hiura went deep after a ground out to short started things. Adam Alcantara’s single a batter later chased Eissler, who finished with 5.0 innings of five hit ball, striking out four, walking one, and being tagged for a trio of runs. He was replaced with Haylen Green, who surrendered a single to the first batter he faced, first baseman Adrian Damla. He would allow Alcantara to score a batter later off of Cole Kreuter’s base knock, as the Anteaters continued to make good contact off of the TCU pitching staff. After walking a hitter to load the bases with two outs, Green induced a pop up to end the inning. But the Frogs were down and out, with no heroics in sight.
TCU went quietly in the top of the seventh, and Irvine didn’t due much in the bottom, save a two out walk. The Frogs went in order again in the eighth, as Barz, Skoug, and Luken failed to get anything going. The trio went hitless on the night, with only Skoug reaching base - via a walk. Cal Coughlin took the mound in the bottom of the inning, and after issuing an inning-opening walk, struck out two and induced a grounder to end it, an encouraging sign for the freshman who struggled to find the strike zone a week ago. The ninth wasn’t any better for the Frogs though, as Watson and Brown struck out in back to back ABs and Warner grounded out to end the game and set the 11-2 final margin. In all, the normally potent Frog O managed just three hits - all singles, drew four walks, and scored a mere two runs. It was a very uncharacteristic performance overall, and unexpected after such a great week leading up to the West Coast swing.
On a more positive note, after striking out 121 times through the first 12 games, an insane 10 per rate, the Frogs K’ed just five times Friday night. They were also errorless, another issues that has plagued them in the early going. The lack of production from the big bats is something to note, but in baseball, some days you just don’t have it. Friday night was certainly one of those days.
TCU will send freshman Nick Lodolo to the mound Saturday, in hopes the young lefty can help the Frog avoid their first losing streak of the year. Lodolo, who had a game akin to Howard’s against Texas A&M last time out, will need a bounce back performance to get Schloss’ squad back in the win column. First pitch is set for 4:00pm central time.