It seems like it’s been a long time since the Frogs put together the first big inning of a ball game, but Saturday they did just that, and it helped secure a rare series win over the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
I don’t know what it is about OSU, but the Pokes have had TCU’s number in most every sport since the Frogs joined the Big 12, but maybe this weekend’s series is the first step into turning their fortunes around. It took a little Lupton Magic once again, but the Frogs used a strong start by Nick Lodolo and some early offensive fireworks to get the job done.
It appeared through their first two innings that we were in for a pitcher’s duel, as Nick Lodolo and Jonathan Heasley traded punches. The Frogs would land the first uppercut though, striking for four runs in the bottom of the third. Austen Wade got things going with a one out double, setting the table for Cam Warner, who responded with an RBI single up the middle. Evan Skoug moved him over with a single of his own, and Luken Baker’s sac fly put runners at the corners for Josh Watson - who delivered a base knock to bring Warner home. The game would be broken open by a two out error that scored two runs for TCU, as Nolan Brown’s ball to third base was booted and thrown away. Brown was out at second, but the Frogs had a big lead - and they would need all of it.
OSU tried to respond in the fourth off of Nick Lodolo, getting their first hit of the game and putting a runner in scoring position on Skoug’s throwing error on a pick-off attempt. But Lodolo fought back, as he did multiple times on the night, and worked his way out of the inning unscathed. After a quiet fifth inning, Lodolo found himself in his worst jam of the night in the sixth, loading the bases on a single, a walk, and a hit by pitch - with no outs on the board. This would end his night; the freshman lefty finished with 5.0 innings pitched, allowing three runs on three hits, walking three batters, hitting one, and fanning six. He threw 98 pitches - 57 of which were for strikes - and was frankly brilliant until the fateful sixth. Coach Schlossnagle went to the pen and called on Charles King, a freshman righty who had been dynamic and reliable out of the pen most of the season. Put in an impossible spot, he allowed a single to the first batter he faced, and an error helped the Pokes put two runs on the board. King walked the next batter he saw, and that led him to be pulled and replaced with Trey Morris, who induced a groundout to get the runner at home in his first action. The Cowboys countered with a pinch hitter, and Cade Cabbiness delivered with a triple that scored a pair - an exceptional tag by Skoug saved the third run. With things tied up at four, Morris settled in and got a grounder to third from Simpson, but Baker couldn’t handle the routine ball allowing the Pokes to take the lead. The inning ended a batter later on Sluder’s fly out, but the Frogs were back behind the eight ball once again.
Looking to atone for his error, Baker opened the TCU half of the sixth with a line drive single to left field. Josh Watson got lucky a batter later, as OSU couldn’t handle his fly ball to the outfield, putting runners at second and third. Nolan Brown’s grounder tied things back up at five, but the Frogs lost out on doing further damage as Elliot Barzilli was robbed by a great play by the pitcher on the hardest hit ball he’s had in weeks.
Morris settled down in the seventh, holding off Oklahoma State after a walk and a single - with help from Skoug who somehow kept a runner at third from scoring on a wild pitch that squirted down the first base line. Skoug would turn his great defense into great offense in the bottom of the frame, hitting a two out single to score Austen Wade, who had drawn a two out walk earlier, and giving the Frogs the last lead they would need.
The combination of Haylen Green - who had a pair of strikeouts in the eighth - and Durbin Feltman - who also struck out two around a single - held off the Cowboys and gave the Frogs the win, with a final score of 6-5. TCU takes the night and the series, positioning themselves at the top of the Big 12 standings. The two teams will square off once again Sunday afternoon in the rubber match, with the Frogs looking to send a message with a sweep. Brian Howard will be on the bump for the 1:00pm start, and the game will once again be shown on ESPN2.