TCU Baseball had their share of missed opportunities Friday night in the series opener against UC Irvine, but as we have grown accustomed to, they came through when it mattered.
Jared Janczak and Anteater’s pitcher Andre Pallante traded Ks early, as the game quickly became an “anything you can do, I can do better” affair. The Frogs struck first, in the bottom of the second, with a Josh Watson lead off single, followed by a hit by pitch, an AJ Balta single, and a run scoring bases loaded walk drawn by Michael Landestoy. TCU had the bases still loaded at that point, but three straight Ks from Pallante got him out of the jam, and allowed the Anteaters to take the lead just a half inning later. UCI scored twice in the top of the third with the help of two walks, a single, and a TCU error.
Both Janczak and Pallante settled in from there, throwing up zeroes until the bottom of the fifth. JJ finished having allowed just two hits in six innings of work, but was responsible for both runs scored in the no decision. He did record six strikeouts on the evening, the fourth of which gave him 200 for his career.
Pallante lived up to his billing as well, matching Janczak’s 6.0 innings while allowing five hits and striking out eight, but being responsible for both runs scored when he exited.
The Anteaters took back the lead in the top of the seventh, as the first two batters reached (on a single and an error) to chase JJ. Cal Coughlin came in an minimized the damage, but UCI did manage to push one run across. It appeared for a good long while that Irvine’s one run lead would hold, as time after time the Frogs got multiple runners on base with one or fewer outs, but couldn’t find a way to bring a runner home.
Until the bottom of the ninth, that is.
The combination of Coughlin and Jake Eissler did their part to keep TCU in it, throwing three frames of scoreless, one hit ball, to keep UCI off the board. The Frogs sent the top of the order to the plate in the final frame, and after Boulware grounded out to start the frame, the fireworks started. Connor Wanhanen worked a single in a two strike count, followed by a Luken Baker shot off the wall for a double that put runners at second and third. Irvine intentionally walked Josh Watson to load the bases, and Zach Humphreys tied things up by drawing an eight pitch walk. That brought up Balta, who took a cut at the first pitch he saw, and seemingly hit a harmless foul ball to right. But the Irvine right fielder chose to catch the ball with just one out, allowing Colton Parrish (who was pinch running for Baker) to slide in head first to home plate safely with the winning run.
It wasn’t the prettiest game for the Frogs, who left ten runners stranded and committed two errors defensively. But, ultimately, they gutted out a win, got another great bullpen performance, and another sprinkle of Lupton Magic. Game two is Saturday, with first pitch scheduled for 2:00pm.