The Frogs looked much better Sunday afternoon, and not just because they were in the best throwbacks in baseball. After getting shellacked in every way Saturday afternoon, TCU bounced back for an 8-5 win against Baylor Sunday, locking up a crucial series victory in the stretch run.
Brian Howard was excellent once again, throwing 5.2 innings of four hit, two run ball, with six strikeouts and just one walk. But he was lifted in the sixth with two outs - and ahead of the batter 0-2 - and a runner on second for Sean Wymer. It was an odd decision - was Schloss being overly careful with the Frogs nursing a one run lead? - but it paid off as Wymer ended it two pitches later.
Prior to that point, the Frogs were having a much better day at the plate than an afternoon ago; though the runs weren’t piling up, they hit the ball hard and stretched Baylor Cody Bradford with long, pitch count heavy ABs. TCU got the scoring started in the bottom of the first, pouncing for an early 1-0 lead off of singles by Austen Wade, Luken Baker, and Josh Watson. They added to the lead in the third when Cam Warner led off with a solo shot to center field and Evan Skoug followed with a dinger of his own to right to make it a 3-0 TCU advantage.
The Bears struck back half an inning later, plating a pair of their own in the top of the fourth. Most of the damage came with two outs; after Richard Cunningham led off the frame with a single, two quick outs moved him into scoring position at second. Menard singled him home with a single and advanced to second a few pitches later on a failed pickoff attempt. He scored a batter later on Dodson’s base hit up the gut. The Frogs went in order in their half of the fourth, and neither team made any real noise in the fifth or sixth. In the seventh, the Frogs got back on the board when Wade punched one out to center to give them a two run advantage at 4-2.
TCU broke things open in the bottom of the eighth, putting a four spot on the board for what would prove to be an important cushion. After Wymer set down the side in order in the top of the frame, a one-out walk by Josh Watson got the Frogs started. Nolan Brown followed with a single, and Michael Landestoy loaded the bases with a base hit of his own. After a pitching change, Ryan Merrill worked a walk himself to score one, and Barzilli followed with a double to plate two more. Austen Wade’s sacrifice fly made it a four run inning, and gave TCU their final tally of eight runs scored.
Though the lead was out of save range, Durbin Feltman had already been warming up, and after last weekend, needed to get back on the horse. So on came the Frogs’ closer, fresh off of a disaster ninth inning - where he blew his first save without allowing a hit - and it was deja vu all over again for Frog fans. Like his last appearance in Morgantown, Feltman started things off with a dominating strikeout. But a pair of five pitch walks followed by a four pitch free pass loaded the bases, and Feltman was taken out of the game. Feltman, who has issued as many free passes in his last two appearances as he had in total prior to last week (six), is clearly struggling, and it’s likely a mental block that he needs to find a way to fight through. TCU needs Durbin - the 14 consecutive saves, flame-throwing, over powering, dominant closer Durbin - if they want to reach their goals. Many closers go through a period of struggle - Riley Ferrell before him certainly did - and we all hope he can bounce back and get back to his own self soon.
With the bases loaded and just one out, and Baylor threatening the Frogs six run lead, Schloss went back to the pen to bring out Haylen Green - who promptly walked in a run. He got Raguse swinging on three pitches, but allowed a double a batter later to make it an 8-5 game, with the Bears still threatening. That was enough to bring in the third pitcher of the final frame, as Dalton Brown came in and ended the game with a swinging strikeout.
In all, the offense showed encouraging signs, as they smacked three home runs, two doubles, and drew two walks - while striking out just four times - on their way to a 12 hit day. Wade, Warner, Brown, and Landestoy (play him more please) had a pair of hits each, while Wade and Barzilli drove in a pair a piece. The pitching was improved, save the disastrous ninth inning - but the Frogs are going to need to find guys that came come in and shut things down in order to make a long post-season run.
The win gives TCU 30 on the year against just eight losses, as they move to 11-4 in Big 12 play. Losses by West Virginia (to Kansas State) and Texas Tech (to Oklahoma State) enabled the Frogs to take a two game lead in the conference race, with a series against the Red Raiders in Lubbock on the docket for next weekend. A series win would go a long way to helping TCU to a potential regular season title and on their journey to a National Seed.
Next up, the Frogs welcome SFA to Lupton Tuesday night with first pitch scheduled for 6:30pm.