Normally, when a team as talented as TCU gets punched in the mouth, they respond by fighting back. But after seeing their two best hitters get beaned - one on the base paths and one at the plate - the Frogs withered to a powerful Texas Tech attack, falling in the final two games of the series.
It seems all season we have said ‘it’s just a matter of time before they get it together and look like the #1 team in the country’. But, with just two conference series remaining, time is running out. We thought TCU would bounce back from a tough series in Morgantown with a strong set at home verses Baylor, and while they won the series, they sandwiched those victories around a humiliating Saturday beatdown to the tune of 16-5. ‘That will wake them up!’ we said, only to see them get trounced by SFA at home Tuesday. ‘Now they’re ready!’, we thought, before the Frogs dropped two of three in Lubbock, including Sunday’s 21-3, seven inning, flogging. Look, baseball is a crazy sport, and even the best teams take one in the mouth now and again. But this troubling trend over the course of the last three weeks is starting to make Frog fans question the legitimacy of expecting a fourth straight trip to Omaha, with lots of teams showing themselves capable of making it to the ultimate goal, including the one that dominated them this weekend.
Sunday was a new low though, as starter Brian Howard was tapped for seven runs on five hits over just 2.1 innings of work. The Red Raiders struck back for three runs after the Frogs notched a pair in the opening inning, and it would be all home team from there. After a one-run second, Tech would throw up crooked numbers in each subsequent inning, highlighted by a five run third and seven run fourth. In all, Tech blasted four home runs, four doubles, and a triple, roughing up each of the six pitchers they saw through six frames of play. The combination of Howard, Trey Morris, Dalton Horton, Dalton Brown, Austin Boyles, and Cal Coughlin combined to allow 21 runs on 20 hits, striking out eight and walking seven. Each allowed at least two runs.
Meanwhile, Tech starter Ryan Shetter settled in after a rough first inning to hold the Frogs to two runs on six hits, walking a pair and sitting down six on strikes. He went 99 pitches in five innings of work to earn the win. No TCU player had more than a single hit in the game, with Cam Warner and Nolan Brown each notching an RBI. TCU was held without an extra base hit, struck out ten times, left ten on base, were just 3-19 with runners on base, and 1-10 with RISP. The Frogs emptied the bench in the fifth with the game out of hand, and the subs managed a run on a Michael Landestoy single and a couple of errors in the top of the seventh to make it a 21-3 final.
The Frogs remain as talented as any team in the country, but haven’t been able to put it all together for a consistent stretch. May would be a good time to do just that, and it’s not at all out of the question that they will. It is perfectly acceptable to be frustrated by the result of this game, to question the decision to leave Howard in for as long as they did, and to worry that the young pitching is showing itself to be just that. But let’s not give up on this team quite yet... the Frogs still sit at the top of the Big 12 standings with a one game cushion, and have winnable series against Texas (home) and OU still remaining. Hosting a regional is still highly likely, with a top eight seed not out of the question. The Frogs need to get back to playing the kind of baseball that has brought them success - winning with pitching, defense, timely hitting, and quality at bats, and if they do, they can win the conference and set themselves up for a quality post-season run.
TCU returns home to finish a previously weather-delayed game against ACU Tuesday night. Here’s hoping this resumed game goes better than the last one, with first pitch scheduled for 6:30pm.