Freshman pitcher Russell Smith made his long-awaited debut Thursday night, as the Frogs and Mavericks (finally) faced off after three rescheduled games. The big lefty from Midlothian had been waiting in the wings for weeks, but finally took the bump in Fort Worth to face a solid UTA squad in TCU’s first midweek game of the season.
Smith, who was expected to be the midweek starter, worked just one inning Thursday, allowing a solo home run around two ground outs and a pop up - but it was enough to earn his first career victory. Coach Jim Schlossnagle announced on his radio show earlier in the week that Smith would be limited in his debut, as he would get the start Sunday as well as Sean Wymer works through an undisclosed injury (though it appears to be minor).
Interesting double-dip this week for Russell Smith, the TCU starter tonight. Schloss says on his radio show that the lefty freshman will go one inning and then probably start Sunday.— Carlos A. Mendez (@calexmendez) March 2, 2018
After allowing the solo shot, Smith was relieved by another freshman in the second inning, as another highly-touted prospect, Caleb Sloan, took the mound. But Russell left with the lead, as the Frogs answered the Mavs’ bomb with two of their own - back to back shots from Luken Baker and Josh Watson, both with two outs, gave TCU a lead they would not relinquish. Sloan wasn’t incredibly sharp - allowing two hits, walking three, and striking out two - in 1.1 innings of work, but he kept UTA off the board and showed some moxie working out of trouble in the second. Austin Boyles took over for him, and threw 1.2 frames of no hit ball with two Ks.
Meanwhile, the TCU offense built a cushion, scoring a pair of runs in the third before exploding for seven in the fifth. The inning opened with a Luken Baker double, which was followed by four consecutive walks. After Conner Shepherd hit into a fielder’s choice, freshman shortstop Adam Oviedo singled to plate two - extending his seven game hitting streak in the process - followed by Coby Boulware’s bases clearing double. After Connor Wanhanen worked a four pitch walk, both runners advanced on a wild pitch, allowing Baker to bat again and pick up his second RBI on groundout to second.
A third freshman pitcher entered the game for the Frogs in the fifth, Augie Mihlbauer, and he threw two near perfect innings, allowing just one walk. The Frogs added three more runs in the bottom of the sixth, drawing three walks and hitting two singles and a double. Schloss emptied the bench, bringing in Colton Parrish, Danny Crews, and Tristan Hanoian, as he gave the starters a rest ahead of their three game set against UC Irvine, beginning Friday.
Charles King came on in the seventh and struck out the side, allowing TCU to employ the mercy rule after 6.5. The Frogs drew 11 walks in just six innings of work, as the Mavericks used six pitchers trying to slow the TCU offense down. In all, the Frogs racked up 11 hits, including two home runs and four doubles, and struck out just four times. They played perfect defense behind their pitchers, but did leave eight men on base.
The Frogs host UC Irvine starting tomorrow for a three game set, with Jared Janczak taking the hill for the opener at 6:30pm.