It was a series very indicative of TCU Baseball’s 2018 season - up, then down, and up again. But thankfully, in front of a packed house of both Frogs and Red Raiders, it was more good than bad.
There is something special about the TCU and Texas Tech baseball rivalry, something that has stretched across multiple sports since the Frogs joined the Red Raiders in the Big 12 Conference. And while the football games have been (mostly) close and always contentious and the basketball games tightly fought and physical, it seems to go next level on the baseball diamond.
That was surely the case when a top ten Red Raiders team rolled into Fort Worth with a chance to get one step closer to securing a Big 12 Championship and a National Seed.
They would end up with one of the two.
The #LuptonMagic seemed to be missing most nights in Fort Worth - the Frogs went 22-9 on their home field, an excellent mark, but off the pace set the last four years amid a torrid of graduations and injuries. But, for that weekend in late April it sparkled bright, as seemingly everything was coming up Schlossnagle in two out of three games in the series. Friday night provided the most drama, as the Frogs led early, fell behind, and rallied with the long ball to take the opener by a score of 6-4. TCU took a three run first inning lead behind Nick Lodolo when freshman Adam Oviedo roped a bases-loaded double, but the powerful Red Raiders offense fought back to take a 4-3 lead in the fifth. The Frogs struck back in the bottom of the frame with two runs of their own, plating the pair when AJ Balta went yard for the second time this season, igniting a power surge from the outfielder that will only end when the Frogs’ season did. From there, it was the Sean Wymer show, as the former ace reliever and sometime starter returned to the pen to 3 2⁄3 innings of shutout ball, allowing just two base runners while striking out five. Johnny Rizer went deep in the eight to give TCU some breathing room, and the Frogs took game one over the league-leading Red Raiders. Also of note in the opener was Durbin Feltman tying the all-times save record at TCU, a mark which would hold steady at 32 for the rest of the season, and be the final save of his TCU Baseball career. Feltman would get one more opportunity, in the Big 12 Championship game in OKC, but a pair of errors prevented him from leaving the mound as the all-time leader in his final game in purple. Instead, he sits atop the mountain next to Riley Ferrell, which is not a bad place to be.
After Tech took the second game of the set, the two teams met for an epic rubber match that seemed to have everything coming up Schlossnagle. The Sunday set introduced the world to Jake Eissler, a sophomore who came on strong late in the season and looks primed to be an ace in 2019. Eissler struck out 11 of the 15 batters he faced after coming on in the fifth frame.
It looked like the Red Raiders would continue their hot hitting from Saturday night, as they jumped on starter Haylen Green from the get, striking for five runs on six hits over the first two frames. But Green settled in just as the wheels game off for Tech pitching, as the arms for the visiting team allowed the Frogs to score in the first four frames, including three in the second and two in the fourth. The Red Raiders could not find the strike zone that Sunday, issuing 14 free passes on the day, leading to eight earned runs and ten overall.
It was a cathartic victory for Frogs fans, who had watched their teams struggle under the burden of youth and expectation, a series that left hope for the future and introduced us to some potential future stars.