For the third time in three games, the Frogs rode a big inning to a win, and this one sends them to the championship game.
Facing WVU for the second time in three days, the TCU offense sputtered early against Eers’ starter Kade Strowd. But a seven run fourth broke things up, and the Frogs held on from there for a 7-3 victory.
Freshman Russell Smith struggled in his first post season start, falling behind nearly every batter he faced as he walked a pair and allowed a run in just 2.2 innings of work. Smith threw 65 pitches and only 33 were strikes, as he couldn’t find the zone against a patient WVU lineup. But Charles King came in and calmed things down, allowing the Frogs to stay within striking distance. They would use some wildness by Strowd to ultimately take a lead that they would not relinquish.
Things began to fall apart for Strowd in the fourth, and inning that would see four different Mountaineers take the mound. Michael Landestoy started things off with a bunt single to put the lead runner on, and Johnny Rizer moved him over with a base knock of his own. After Zach Humphreys fouled out, Connor Wanhanen started a string of three straight walks that would score two TCU runs, but it was Adam Oviedo’s 11 pitch free base - that started off 0-2 - that set the tone for the Horned Frogs Saturday afternoon. Following the three free passes, Josh Watson hit the first of three straight doubles - a ball that would have cleared the fence in just about any other ballpark but was held in Bricktown’s due to a high right field wall. Balta and Landestoy had the other two extra-baggers, all three of which came off a different pitcher. Balta’s double gave him ten RBIs for the tourney, best among all players.
Though WVU would add a run off of King in both the fifth and the seventh frames, the sophomore was critical in relief for a TCU staff that will be near full-bore for Sunday’s championship tilt. His four innings of five hit ball gave way to Cal Coughlin, who finished things out for the Frogs.
TCU can turn to either Haylen Green or Nick Lodolo for Sunday’s start against Baylor - Lodolo was roughed up for five runs on seven hits in just 3.2 innings of work in his start earlier this season against the Bears, and Green walked five in relief in game two of the series, which BU swept. I would imagine Lodolo will get the call, but just about everyone outside of King will be able to go if needed. Feltman is also back and looked great in his return Thursday.
The Bears and Frogs battle with a Big 12 Tournament title - and for TCU, a postseason berth - on the line, with first pitch scheduled for 1:00pm. Let’s win this thing and keep the season alive!