FORT WORTH, TX - A two home-run day from Zach Humphreys and dominant relief pitching from Jake Eissler was exactly what TCU needed to get back in the win column on Saturday afternoon. TCU defeated Grand Canyon 17-9 in a game that wasn’t as close as the score suggested (yes, I’m being serious).
After starting the season 0-13 at the plate, Humphreys broke out of his slump in a big way, going 2-4 from the plate with two home runs and five RBI on the night, including a grand slam to dead center field in the seventh inning.
Meanwhile, Jake Eissler was phenomenal in relief after Jared Janczak got into trouble early. Eissler pitched 5.2 innings, striking out seven, and retiring the last 16 batters he faced.
It’s the second straight weekend Eissler has come up big in an extended relief appearance, and the second time he’s recorded the win in the process. Eissler pitched a brilliant 5.1 innings last Sunday as TCU defeated Vanderbilt 10-2.
TCU hit five home runs on the day, with Austin Henry, Conner Shepherd, and Johnny Rizer all tallying their first home runs of the season. Coach Schlossnagle had been talking up the power of this lineup all preseason, and it showed out in a big way on Saturday.
Of course, it didn’t look like things were going to break TCU’s way early on.
Grand Canyon jumped on Janczak early, pushing a run across in the top of the first inning. A leadof double from Quin Cotton got things started for the Lopes. He advanced to third on a single, and scored on a fielder’s choice to give Grand Canyon a 1-0 lead.
The quiet bats continued for TCU early on Saturday, as they struggled to convert runners into runs through the first two innings. TCU looked to have a chance in the second inning, but Johnny Rizer ran into the final out at third base.
The floodgates opened up in the third inning, as Grand Canyon put up four runs and chased Jared Janczak from the game. Two walks to open the inning were followed by a runner’s interference call for the first out of the inning, as the GCU batter got in the way of the throw.
The following batter doubled, pushing a run across to give Grand Canyon a 2-0 lead. That was the last batter Janczak faced, as he was pulled for Jake Eissler. Eissler struck out the first batter he faced, but then gave up a three-run home run to GCU’s catcher, David Avitia. The Lopes carried that 5-0 lead into the bottom of the inning.
Then, TCU’s bats finally woke up. Brown worked a walk with two outs in the inning, and Watson followed him with a single. Austin Henry then singled to center, scoring Brown to put TCU on the board and moving Watson to third.
With two runners still on, Johnny Rizer stepped up and absolutely crushed a ball to dead center. The three-run home run gave TCU a 6-5 lead, which they would carry into the fourth inning.
Eissler seemed to take his cue from the bats, as he quickly retired three Lopes to get back to the dugout. Conner Shepherd then led off the bottom of the fourth with a solo home run, for TCU’s first multi-home run game of the season.
The Frogs weren’t finished in the inning, either. After Wolfe and Brown reached base - and Josh Watson popped out - Austin Henry hit a ground ball to short that was thrown into the outfield. Wolfe came around to score on the error, while Brown reached third and Henry reached second.
Jake Guenther followed that up with a double down the left field line to score Brown and Henry, and give TCU a 10-5 lead. TCU threatened to push more runs across in the inning, but a bullet by Andrew Keefer was caught at first base to end the inning.
Jake Eissler executed his second straight shut down inning in response to TCU’s offensive outburst, using just 11 pitches to get through the top half of the 5th inning. He continued his dominance into the sixth inning, retiring the side in order again.
Meanwhile, TCU wasn’t finished scoring. Austin Henry led off the sixth inning with a solo shot into the trees behind the Frogs’ dugout in left field. After Jake Guenther hit a line drive out to center field Zach Humphreys recorded his first hit of the season. Hump crushed a ball into the trees behind the left field fence, just on the other side of the scoreboard from Henry’s home run. He rounded the bases to tumultuous applause.
The next at bat saw Johnny Rizer triple to right field, and he scored in short order in an Austin Keefer sacrifice fly. Keefer was robbed of an etra base hit on the play, as GCU’s right fielder made an incredible diving catch.
Jake Eissler continued to cruise through the seventh, retiring the Lopes in order for the fourth consecutive inning. In the bottom of the inning TCU put up another crooked number. With the bases loaded and two outs, Zach Humphreys hit a grand slam to dead center field for his second home run of the day, putting TCU up 17-5.
The Frogs threatened to add to their blowout lead in the eighth, but Dean Frew grounded out with the bases loaded.
James Notary came on to pitch the ninth for TCU and gave up a three run homer to Pikai Winchester, helping Grand Canyon climb back a bit. A double followed for GCU, followed by a walk and a single, which scored another run for the Lopes.
Notary finally struck out Nick Hansen to end the game.
The rubber match between these two teams will take place Sunday, at 1pm. Brandon Williamson will pitch for TCU.