When you are taking everyone’s best shot every night, you’re bound to get knocked down a time or two. That’s been the case for TCU Baseball on their West Coast swing, as they were once again tagged for a big first inning on their way to a disappointing loss.
Highly-touted freshman Nick Lodolo got the start for the Frogs, coming off a rough start against Texas A&M a week ago, when he managed to get through only two outs. Much like the previous game, he dug himself in a hole early, walking the Anteaters’ lead-off man on four pitches and giving up a two run jack a batter later. UCI would add to their early lead on back-to-back doubles, and finish the first with a 4-0 lead. But, unlike his start in Houston, Lodolo stayed in and settled in, shutting down the ‘Eaters four the next four frames and retiring 14 straight in the process.
Meanwhile, the TCU offense, which had been so potent to this point, struggled to get anything going. I think the equipment guys need to check and make sure the bats made it off the plane, as the Frogs yet again went hitless the first time through the lineup. It wasn’t until the fifth inning that TCU finally made some noise on the base paths; Luken Baker singled to start the inning, and Josh Watson followed with a hit by pitch. Nolan Brown’s single loaded things up with no outs, and Ryan Merrill brought home a run by drawing a bases loaded walk. But, with the bags still full of Frogs and nobody out, Mason Hesse (starting in place of Elliot Barzilli at third) grounded into a fielder’s choice that got Watson out at home, and Evan Williams hit a double play ball to second. Managing only a single run off a bases loaded situation would come back to haunt the Frogs not once, but twice, Saturday afternoon.
TCU appeared to be in business once again in the sixth, as Wade hit a ball hard off the pitcher for a double to start the frame. He took third on a Warner sac fly, and scored on a wild pitch soon thereafter. Evan Skoug took a four pitch walk with one out, but a strikeout by Baker and line out by Watson ended the threat. In the bottom of the inning, Lodolo plunked the leadoff hitter for his first mistake in a long time, and Schlossnagle went to the pen to bring in Charles King, who has been exceptional in the early going. He did his job to get the Frogs out of the jam and keep things manageable, picking off Hiura and recovering from a double to keep the Anteaters off the board.
The Frogs had another great opportunity to take the momentum back in the top of the seventh, as Nolan Brown crushed a ball over the right field fence for his first home run of the year and second of his career to start things off and make it a one run game. Merrill went down on strikes a batter later, and Schloss called on Barzilli to pinch hit for Hesse. He worked a walk, stole second, and advanced to third on a balk. Williams walked a batter later and took second on a wild pitch, followed by a Wade walk to load the bags with just one down. But with another golden opportunity, Warner and Skoug both went down swinging, and the Frogs squandered another great opportunity to tie or take the lead.
UCI added a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the seventh, scoring off a leadoff walk and a smattering of hits. But TCU couldn’t answering, going in order in the final two frames to give Irvine the 6-3 victory and 2-0 advantage in the series.
TCU will look to stave off a sweep Sunday afternoon, and turn to Jared Janczak to do just that. Lodolo finished with 5.0 innings of three hit ball, all for extra bases, striking out six, walking one, and hitting a batter. He was responsible for four of the runs scored. King went the final three innings in relief, and he scattered five hits for two runs, with one strikeout and one walk issued. TCU’s batters struck out 11 times, walked five, and had their first two extra base hits of the weekend - on Wade’s double and Brown’s home run. They left seven men on base and played their second consecutive error-less game, the first time this season they have strung together perfect defensive performances.
TCU falls to 11-3 on the year and is likely to lose their #1 ranking come Monday. But first, they will go out and try and stop their first losing streak of the year, with first pitch against Irvine set for 3:00pm Central.