Coming off their worst series performance since spring break, TCU came out swinging in defense of their freshly inserted Friday night starter, giving freshman Nick Lodolo run support from the opening pitch and continuing to spray the ball around the park throughout the game. Lodolo, who himself struggled mightily in Morgantown, looked comfortable throughout the game, even when he found himself in trouble in the middle innings. Called upon to take on the Friday night role with the announcement Friday that Jared Janczak was on the shelf for at least a couple of weeks, Lodolo gave TCU the kind of performance they desperately needed in the opening match of the three game rivalry set.
Baylor threatened in the first, but a double play erased the threat and helped Lodolo get out of the opening frame scoreless. The Bears weren’t quite as lucky though, as the hot-hitting Austen Wade ripped a leadoff double, and a walk by Luken Baker and single by Evan Skoug with one out loaded the bases. Watson worked a walk to plate one, and Nolan Brown’s sac fly led the Frogs to a 2-0 lead after one.
After a 1-2-3 top of the second, the Frogs added some insurance on the strength of Merrill’s leadoff triple, as he scored off a Ryan Merrill sac fly. After a scoreless third inning, TCU struck big in the fourth, plating five runs in a wild frame. The fun got started with Nolan Brown’s leadoff single, and after he stole second, Warner moved him to the corner with a single of his own. Barzilli followed with a third straight hit, scoring Brown, and putting runners at second and third with some nice base running. That would be short-lived though, as Barz was picked off just a couple pitches later. Wade walked to put runners at the corners a batter later though, and Wanhanen followed with a free pass of his own to load them up. That brought up Luken Baker in a RISP situation, and he delivered with a single, emptying the bases with the help of some poor defense in left field. He would trot home a batter later on a Skoug single, and the Frogs would have an 8-0 advantage.
The Bears went in order in the fifth, but finally broke through for a run an inning later. Lodolo surrendered a pair of singles and a walk to take the zero off the board, but he shut things down after the one run crossed to keep BU at bay. He was relieved by Jake Eissler in the seventh, and though he surrendered a pair of singles, he got through the frame unscathed. The eighth would be an adventure for the freshman though, who got two quick outs before allowing three straight singles to load the bases. A hit batter brought home the second run of the game for the Bears, and that would force the Frogs to use their third pitcher of the night, Cal Coughlin. That didn’t go so well at first. Coughlin got tagged for a two-run scoring single to the first batter he faced to make the score 8-4. A walk loaded the bases once again, and Baylor went to the bench and pinch hitter Andy Thomas, who represented the tying run. Thomas worked the count full, but the defense beared down (yup) and Elliott Barzilli handled a tough chopper to third to end the frame.
TCU would get something back in the bottom of the eighth, scoring a run on a hit and run by Barzilli and Wade - the former who walked and the latter who singled. Michael Landestoy, a defensive replacement an inning earlier, singled as well, putting runners at the corners for Baker and Skoug. But neither could make contact, and the Frogs took a 9-4 lead into the ninth.
Back out looking to finish things off, Coughlin opened the final frame with a strikeout. He would end it that was as well, around a groundout, to secure the game one victory for the home team, with a 9-4 final tally.
Lodolo’s start was encouraging, especially with the news that Janczak could miss weeks or more. His 6.0 innings of one run ball, where he struck out five, walked two, and threw 90 pitches (53 for strikes), was a great bounce back effort and helped protect a bullpen that will be asked to do more over the next several weeks, especially when Traver starts, as he has yet to go more than four innings this year coming off of injury. Though the late inning struggles of Friday and Sunday returned, there were some encouraging signs from Eissler and Coughlin - though both will need to be sharper down the stretch, and in tighter games. On the other side, the TCU offense has found its groove, using timely hitting, aggressive running, and some changes in the lineup, to maximize their unlimited potential. Luken Baker had a pair of RBI, scored two runs, and forced Baylor pitchers to think twice any time he was up to the plate. Skoug and Brown each had a pair of hits, while Austen Wade was once again spectacular, going three for three with a walk, an RBI, and two runs scored.
The two teams will square off once again tomorrow, with first pitch scheduled for 3:00pm and Mitchell Traver scheduled to make his first weekend start of the year for TCU.