There have been very legitimate concerns about TCU’s pitching this season, but as they are prone to do, the veterans are stepping up at the right time, and turning it on for the Frogs’ post season run. Mitchell Traver is the latest to do just that, spinning seven innings of beautiful baseball and saving the pen for the second half of the double header.
Much like fellow senior Brian Howard a night ago, things did not start well for Traver this afternoon. Under a blazing Oklahoma sun, Traver surrendered a leadoff home run in the first inning, putting the Frogs in a 1-0 hole early. But, his team would pick him up, and that would be the only time TCU would trail all day. After a pair of strikeouts and a pick-off pickle ending the top of the first, the Frogs struck for a pair of runs in the bottom of the inning, as Wade reached on an error and Zach Humphreys tripled him home. Cam Warner’s ground out brought the freshman catcher home, and after Wanhanen walked, Merrill doubled to plate two more and give the Frogs 4-1 lead that would be more than enough for Traver. The fifth year senior settled in nicely, throwing zeroes for the next six frames as he allowed just four hits while striking out eight and walking just one. In all, Traver threw a season high 96 pitches, 60 for strikes, and looked like the guy that was poised to be an ace before injuries derailed his last season and a half.
Meanwhile, the TCU offense finally started to look like what was expected at the beginning of the year, as they scored nine runs on 14 hits - including a double and three triples - went 6-12 with two outs for three runs, struck out just five times and walked twice. After their four run first, the Frogs added one in the second off of Wade’s triple and Humphreys’ sac fly, one in the fifth when Williams walked and scored on a wild pitch, and two in the eighth when Wade tripled home Watson and scored on an error on the same play. Six Frogs had a multi-hit game, and only the heart of the lineup - Evan Skoug and Cam Warner - went without a hit. Wade’s three hit day - including the pair of triples - was matched by his defensive effort - he made an incredible catch at the wall to kill a potential big inning for the Horns as well.
Trey Morris came in for the final two frames and was solid: he threw 37 pitches, 20 for strikes, but did allow three hits and a run. Most importantly, he filled up the zone and enabled TCU not have to go deep into the pen with the second half of the double header looming.
If you are concerned about Skoug and Warner’s struggles this week, don’t be: teams aren’t giving them anything to hit without the threat of Luken Baker to protect them, and daring the other players in the lineup to beat them. More often than not, it’s working, but the three and four hitters for the Frogs have too much history of success with the season on the line not to be counted on as the NCAA Tournament looms.
For TCU, the win keeps their Big 12 Tournament alive, but more importantly, returns confidence in their four starting pitchers. I believe the Frogs have done enough to sew up a National Seed regardless of how game two goes, as they have established their starters, gotten their lineup back in rhythm, and demonstrated that the pen can be counted on to throw strikes. That should give fans a lot of hope for the playoff run, as TCU tries to make a run to Omaha for a fourth consecutive season.
Game Two of the doubleheader is scheduled for 6:00pm.