The Frogs gave fans a bit of a break Saturday afternoon, saving the drama for another day after last night’s incredible ninth inning comeback. TCU struck early and often against Mike Lundin and the GCU Antelopes, plating three runners in the top of the first and not looking back on their way to a 14-6 victory in Arizona and a series win to open the year.
After two quick outs in the first, TCU catcher Zach Humphreys got on board by way of a HBP, and stole second ahead of Josh Watson’s walk. Right fielder AJ Balta got his first hit as a Horned Frog a batter later, breaking through for an RBI single that put runners on the corners for Michael Landestoy, starting in place of the injured Luken Baker. Landy delivered a two run single, giving the Frogs an early 3-0 lead.
Nick Lodolo looked sharp out the gate in the first start of his sophomore campaign, retiring the first seven batters he faced. And he had plenty of run support behind him, as the Frogs added a run in the third before exploding for a big fourth frame. Freshman Coby Boulware, serving as the leadoff hitter for the second straight game, started things off with a single to center on a full count. Connor Wanhanen followed with a triple to push run number five across, bringing Josh Watson to the plate with a runner on and no outs.
Watson, who tied Luken Baker for the team lead in home runs as a freshman, struggled to find his power stroke as a sophomore in 2017, not sending one over the wall until postseason play. Well, to the relief of many - and likely most notably Josh himself - it wasn’t nearly that long of a wait in 2018, as he sent one up and over the right field wall to give the Frogs a 7-0 advantage.
The Frogs weren’t done though, as Adam Oviedo would add another run, doubling home Johnny Rizer after the center fielder drew a two out walk. A five run frame made it a 9-0 ball game, and TCU seemed well in control.
Lodolo, meanwhile, seemed to be cruising, but ran into his first trouble of the day in the bottom of the fifth. The Lopes opened the frame with their first long ball of the year, a Quinn Cotton shot over the left center fence. GCU followed with a single, but Lodolo bounced back to get two quick outs and seemed to have settled back in. A two-out double on a 3-1 count put runners on the corner, and Mumper delivered a single up the middle to make it a 9-3 ball game through five.
After the Frogs went in order in the top of the sixth, GCU looked to do more damage in the bottom of the frame. They got to Nick Lodolo early, as he fell behind in each at bat. A leadoff single got the party started, and following a fielder’s choice, Cotton walked to out two on with one out. A bouncer to third - potentially a double play opportunity - was mishandled by Conner Shepherd, and the throw to second wasn’t in time, loading the bases. That forced Schlossnagle’s hand, and he went to the pen, calling on Trey Morris. Morris fell behind the first batter he faced, but did a good job battling back to hold the Lopes to just one run, on a groundout to first, and ending the threat with a K, making it 9-4 through six.
TCU wasn’t happy with the game tightening up a bit, apparently, as they struck back big in the top of the seventh. A leadoff walk by Conner Shepherd, on an nine pitch AB, started things off, and Coby Boulware kept the momentum with a double off the wall in left. Connor Wanhanen, who has been swinging a hot stick early in the season, picked up an RBI single, and it was 10-4 Frogs. After Humphreys struck out, Josh Watson - who is scorching the ball early - put together a nine pitch at bat of his own, ending in a rocket off the wall in straightaway center, picking up his third RBI of the day and fifth of the young season. Watson scored a batter later on AJ Balta’s double, and the work the Lopes had put in to cut into the lead was quickly undone by the unrelenting offensive attack of the Horned Frogs.
A four run seventh all but sealed it, when Shepherd opened up with another nine pitch walk. Boulware followed with an RBI double, and Wanhanen singled him home a batter later. Josh Watson, who has absolutely ripped the cover off the ball this weekend, doubled off of straightaway center to plate two more, and Balta followed that with a double of his own to make it 14-4.
Freshman pitcher Caleb Sloan made his season debut in the eighth, and after opening the frame with a backwards K, allowed a pair of singles and a walk that plated a pair for the Lopes. But the Frogs’ lead was secure, and the score held through the end, as Augie Milbauer made his debut and kept the Lopes off the board.
The big days offensively from Wanny and Watson were huge for the Frogs on their way to a series win, and while Lodolo scuffled a bit late, he showed what makes him so special early. It was also great to see Trey Morris look sharp and Sloan and Milbauer get some work in as well.
The Frogs go for the sweep behind Sean Wymer tomorrow, as the righty makes his first career start. First pitch is scheduled for 12:00 CT.