The bats were quiet once again Friday night, as TCU returned to Fort Worth after a disappointing West Coast swing looking for a little Lupton Magic. They got just enough to ensure they would open conference play against KU with a win.
Nick Lodolo looked much like the top prospect he has been billed as through the first five innings, scattering four hits over 5.2 innings and surrendering just a single run off of a pair of hits and a walk in the third. He finished the night with four strikeouts and just one walk before being lifted in the sixth as he gave up a hit and a hit by pitch after striking out the first two batters he faced.
Meanwhile, the TCU offense was MIA early once again, as the Frogs couldn’t get anything going through the first five frames. Despite having baserunners in each of the first three innings, they weren’t able to string together anything meaningful, and it seemed that every hard hit ball was smacked right at a defender. But they finally got something going in the sixth, after a Kansas pitching change. After Austen Wade flied out to center field, Cam Warner hit one deep to short for an infield single. That’s when the Jayhawks made the call to the bullpen, removing Sean Rackoski - who had been masterful - for Blake Weiman. Evan Skoug followed the hit with a five pitch walk, and Baker was hit on a 1-0 count a batter later. With the bases loaded and just one out, Watson hit a sac fly to right to score Warner and tie things up at one a piece. Nolan Brown was next up, and TCU’s best hitter for average came through with another infield single to load things up again. Kansas called to the pen again, bringing in Zach Leban, and he ended the inning by striking out Elliot Barzilli.
For TCU, Sean Wymer came to the bump and was masterful in ending the top of the sixth with a one pitch out, and striking out two in the top of the seventh. He was great once again, allowing just one hit in 2.1 innings of work with two Ks. That set up Ryan Merrill’s seventh inning heroics. Not far removed from his walk-off against Texas A&M in Houston, a weekend that also saw him hit his first dinger of the year, Merrill led off the frame with an absolute blast into the wind in right. Merrill and the Frogs would add an insurance run an inning later, with Watson hitting a leadoff single, Brown following with a walk, Barzilli sacrificing Watson to third, and Merrill hitting an RBI grounder to third to score Josh. It would be a good thing, too, as the game got a little hairy in the top of the ninth.
Durbin Feltman didn’t get a lot of work in So Cal, as the games weren’t all that close. He came in to close things out, and looked rusty early, hitting the first batter he faced. After a strikeout, Kansas got feisty again, loading the bases with a walk and a single in back to back at bats. But Feltman settled down and settled in, inducing a game-ending double play to secure TCU’s 3-1 win.
Finishing the night with eight hits, six strikeouts - all looking, and just two walks, Schloss’ squad still has some work to do to get back to form in the batter’s box. Warner, Watson - extending his hitting streak to 12 games, and Brown had two hits a piece, while Evan Skoug and Luken Baker continued to struggle to get balls to drop in, finishing 0-6 with a walk and a K between them. Barzilli had a rough night at the dish as well, going 0-4, and still looking to break out of his early season slump. TCU left nine runners on base, and were just 1-14 in those situations overall.
For the Frogs, it’s a game that gets them back in the win column and puts them at 1-0 in conference play. They’ll come back with Jared Janczak tomorrow night, hoping to put together a winning streak and secure a series victory. First pitch at Lupton is scheduled for 5:00pm.