I almost feel badly for opponents when this version of the TCU offense shows up, the one that can frustrate pitchers with their patience at the plate, drawing walks and upping pitch counts, and then turn on a strike and send it over the fence again... and again... and again.
That version of the lineup showed up and showed out Wednesday night, striking for 18 runs off of three different UTRGV arms, including the first career home runs for senior Mason Hesse and freshman Zach Humphreys. Both players were making rare starts for TCU; Hesse taking over for the red-hot Ryan Merrill at short and Humphreys giving Evan Skoug a much needed break behind the plate - though Skoug remained in the lineup at DH. Hesse was your Wednesday night hero, as he had a five RBI inning, doing most of the damage on a grand slam - his first career home run.
Hesse’s heroics came after the Frogs started the game in a 2-0 hole. Dalton Horton, who has been up and down as a midweek starter, struggled out of the gate Tuesday night, allowing three hits, two runs, and two walks in 1.1 innings of work before being replaced by Austin Boyles. The move worked, as Boyles was brilliant for 3.2 innings of work, allowing just one hit while striking out six in the game. He was also gifted with some run support... well, a lot of run support... in the bottom of the second.
UT Rio Grande Valley starter Eddie Delgado lost the strike zone in the second, and when he did throw it over the plate, the Horned Frogs barreled it up and hit it all over the park. Things started with Josh Watson’s lead-off walk, and he went first to third on a Nolan Brown single after a seven pitch at-bat. Delgado then issued three straight walks to put the Frogs on the board, as Elliot Barzilli, Mason Hesse, and Zach Humphreys all drew free passes - the latter pair scoring runs and tying up the game. Austen Wade scored Barz on a groundout, and Cam Warner followed with an RBI double to make things 5-2. But TCU wasn’t done yet, as Evan Skoug plated Warner with a single, followed by an infield single by Luken Baker and a bloop by Josh Watson that loaded the bases. Nolan Brown’s sac fly brought home Skoug, and Barz was beaned in the helmet a pitch later to load them back up. That brought Mason Hesse back to the plate, and the utility player not known for his power absolutely got a hold of one, lacing one over the wall in left for his first home run and TCU’s first grand slam of the season.
I was especially happy to see Hesse have his big moment, as the bench player is always smiling, always energetic, and always one of the first out of the dugout for his teammates. It was clear by the celebration that his team was ecstatic for him as well.
The 11 run inning was the Frogs’ biggest of the season, and they weren’t done yet. They would add another in the third, as Baker walked on four straight with two down and Watson doubled him home - from first - a batter later. The 12-2 difference was more than enough, but TCU had a little more magic in them, as Humphreys blasted a shot to left in the bottom of the fourth to sore Barzilli after his single, and Skoug followed with a two run blast of his own, this one to right that scored Wade, who had also singled in the frame.
Now leading 16-2, the Frogs had one more crooked number inning in them, dropping two more in the sixth as Watson doubled home Evan Williams and Connor Wanhanen. In all, the Frogs scored 18 runs on 16 hits and eight walks, with ten different Frogs getting a hit, 12 reaching base, and seven knocking in a run. TCU was led by Hesse and his two hits and five RBIs and Josh Watson who went 3-4 - including a pair of doubles - with three RBIs and two runs scored. Skoug and and Humphreys added three runs batted in a piece as well.
TCU’s pitchers settled in well overall on the night; in addition to Boyles’ performance, Dalton Brown took the mound for the first time this season and had a pair of Ks in an inning pitched, and Ryan Burnett finished the game with a 1-2-3 frame and a game-ending strikeout. Boyles earned the win, the first career victory for the redshirt freshman. The Frog arms allowed only one hit in relief, struck out nine and walked only three across seven innings of work.
TCU travels to Manhattan this weekend to take on Kansas State in their first Big 12 road trip of the year. The three game set starts off a four game stretch away from Lupton before the Frogs are back in Funky Town for three against Murray State following a one-off Tuesday at UTA. If the bats continue to stay hot, the only showers April will bring are the dugout celebration kind.