The Frogs entered Tuesday night’s game against ACU hoping to build on a four game winning streak as part of a busy week for TCU Baseball. But, as they celebrated the return of Jared Janczak, the ball club fretted over the potential loss of Luken Baker, who left the game in the eighth inning with an injury after awkwardly sliding into second base. Later that evening, they would feel another sting, dropping an extra-inning affair on their home field in an RPI-damaging loss (ACU is #224 in that metric).
Janczak made his first start in several weeks Tuesday, working a single inning as he prepares to return to the weekend rotation, something expected to happen Sunday at Baylor. The righty pitched one inning, allowing one hit as he threw 15 of his 23 pitches for strikes. He would leave the mound with his team trailing though, as the leadoff batter, who reached on a hit by pitch, came around to score on Janczak’s throwing error.
The Frogs next turned to Charles King, who struggled with control in his two innings of work, walking back to back batters in the second and loading the bases on three straight singles in the third. But King kept the Wildcats off the board, getting a huge strikeout to end the third and keep things at 1-0.
Haylen Green was next out of the pen, and he was masterful outside of a blip in the fifth. A one-out walk sandwiched between a pair of strikeouts scored on a double to make it 2-0 ACU, but that was the only walk issued and only hit allowed by Green, who pitched 4.0 innings and struck out six. The Frogs tied things up in the bottom of that frame, scoring twice with the help of two hits, two walks, and a hit by pitch. Coby Boulware led off the inning with a single, and Zach Humphreys - coming off the bench in a pinch hitter role - drew a walk. Josh Watson took one for the team to load the bases in front of Luken Baker, who drew a walk on some carefully placed balls. AJ Balta followed Baker with a sacrifice fly to tie things up at deuces, but, once again, the Frogs were unable to break through for a big inning, despite having a bases loaded, no out situation.
That was how things would stay through regulation, as neither team could get anything going in the latter third of the game. After Cal Coughlin pitched a clean eighth with two Ks, Durbin Feltman shut the door on the Cats with two impressive innings of work - striking out three in two perfect frames, before hitting the first batter he faced in the 11th, on a 2-0 count. He stayed in the game though, and promptly walked the next batter he saw on four straight. Though he had thrown just 19 pitches in his first two innings of work, I think it’s fair to question why he came out for a third frame for a Tuesday night game.
After an error by Wanhanen at first loaded the bases, Feltman fought back to get a three pitch strike out for the first out of the inning. But he hit his second batter of the night one hitter later, and this one hurt, bringing home a run with the bases loaded that gave the Cats a 3-2 lead. One more walk later, and it was a 4-2 game, as Feltman exited the mound having allowed two walks, hit two batters, and been gifted one error from his defense in his final 0.1 innings of work. (Again... why?)
TCU tried to get something going in the bottom of the 11th, but after Boulware’s leadoff single, Zach Humphreys and Josh Watson lined out and Wanhanen K’ed to end the game (TBH, I wrote that sentence before the final at-bat. I knew. You knew. We all knew).
As has been the habit this season, Tuesday’s loss was a story of missed opportunities. The Frogs twice loaded the bases, and stranded 13 runners total. Only Coby Boulware and Johnny Rizer had multi-hit games (three and two respectively), as TCU managed just six hits on the night - despite the two extra frames. Three of TCU’s big bats - Watson, Balta, and Landestoy - combined for an 0-13 night. The Frogs did not have an extra base hit and drew just four walks - though the silver lining of just five Ks is a positive development. TCU, who had four stolen bases in the first two innings, had zero the rest of the way.
This is a tough loss for a team in a very tenuous postseason position. The Frogs will have to get back on track tomorrow night, as they travel to UTA in a weather makeup game, as they have very little room for error the rest of the way.