That was about as bad a game as you could dream up to open a conference series that leads into a double-header Saturday. TCU did just about everything wrong at least once, including squandering several solid scoring opportunities, using up some of their key bullpen members, and not looking sharp through stretches of the game as they dropped the opener at Oklahoma State Friday night.
Things did not go well early for Jared Janczak and the Horned Frogs in the series opener against Oklahoma State in Stillwater Friday night, as the Cowboys blasted home runs in the first (a solo shot) and second (a two run jack) against TCU’s ace to take a 3-2 lead through the first two innings. The Frogs stayed in the game through the first third thanks to a two-run second, bolstered by an RBI single by the suddenly hot-hitting Conner Shepherd and a sacrifice fly from Connor Wanhanen to score Michael Landestoy and AJ Balta, respectively. Jim Schlossnagle and Bill Mosiello must have seen something in the scouting report as well, as they stole three of their season-high six bases in that frame alone.
Janczak settled in from there though, getting a much needed shutdown inning in the bottom of the third to slow momentum down for the Pokes. The fourth inning brought back the fireworks though, in a minor form, as both teams added a run to to first tie things up at three and then give Oklahoma State a 4-3 lead. In the top of the inning, the Frogs scored thanks to a Coby Boulware single and stolen base, which was followed by an RBI single by Zach Humphreys. But a hit by pitch and another defensive miscue made the tie short-lived, as Janczak plunked the lead-off hitter, and he came around to score after a dropped pop up behind short and a single to center by Taylor. TCU got right back to work in the fifth though, tying things up at four thanks to a Michael Landestoy single, and AJ Balta nine pitch walk, and an RBI base hit to left with two outs by Coby Boulware. Lienhard faced the first two batters of the frame before being relieved by Aleaziz, who was very effective outside of the RBI knock by Boulware. Also in the inning, though, Balta endured some pain, as he was cleated badly by the Pokes’ first baseman. He stayed in the game, though, despite a bloody and mangled right hand.
Janczak got the first out of the fifth before being relieved by Caleb Sloan, who completed the 1-2-3 frame. He would get in some trouble in the sixth though, as Adam Oviedo couldn’t get Jon Littell on a chopper to short, and he took second moments later on a wild pitch. A double to left center gave the Cowboys the lead back, and ended Sloan’s night, as he was replaced by Cal Coughlin. Coughlin, who had missed several games with a back issue, and the rust showed as he hit the first batter he faced. A single a batter later made it 6-4, but a nice play by Humphreys on a bunt attempt (and a good job holding his ground during a collision by Coby Boulware) got the first out, and a sac bunt made it two down with runners at second and third. Coughlin got out of the inning with a ground out, allowing the Frogs to stay within two despite the potential for a big inning by Oklahoma State.
TCU tied things back up in the top of the seventh, scoring twice to make it six all. Balta, who had suffered that gruesome injury just a couple innings prior, opened things up with a double down the right field line, the first TCU extra-base hit of the evening. Three consecutive walks followed, including one on a wild pitch that allowed Balta to score after he stole third base. That chased Aleaziz and brought in Brady Basso, who got a double play ball from Wanhanen, one that scored a run but kept the damage minimal despite the Frogs having the bases loaded with no outs.
Things quieted down considerably on offense from there, as TCU got solid performances from Augie Mihlbauer - who worked around a hit and a walk in the bottom of the seventh with three strikeouts, and added a fourth in the eighth before getting in more two out trouble with a hit, a walk, and a HBP. That brought in Durbin Feltman, who got the final out of the eighth and worked a three strikeout ninth after allowing a leadoff single. Haylen Green relieved Feltman in the 10th, working a perfect frame with two Ks, before struggling in the 11th after getting the first two outs with ease. Littel’s triple to right set the Pokes up for the game winning score, and after an intentional walk, Taylor’s single on an 0-1 count provided the winning run.
Green pitched well but took the loss, one of six arms to be used Friday night (and into Saturday morning). That puts TCU in a perilous position for Saturday, and they will need yeomen efforts from Nick Lodolo in game one of the double header and Sean Wymer in game two. Meanwhile, Basso set up the Pokes in good shape with his five scoreless frames and 93 pitch night, as the relievers for OSU got the job done.
The Frogs stranded 18 men on the night, and were unable to consistently take advantage of drawing 11 walks and stealing six bases. It was a frustrating night on offense for a TCU team that has yet to figure things out from top to bottom. Connor Wanhanen was 0-6 on the night with three Ks, while the heart of the order (Humphreys, Baker, and Watson) went just 3-16 with four walks, one RBI, and three Ks.
After looking so solid a week ago in their conference opening series, TCU was sloppy to start their first road trip of Big 12 play. They will have a shot to bounce back Saturday though, as the teams play two to attempt to get ahead of incoming inclement weather.