FORT WORTH, TX - TCU won the rubber match on Sunday afternoon, knocking off Grand Canyon 6-5. Two more home runs on a power-filled weekend helped TCU keep things out of reach, as Jake Guenther and Alex Isola both smashed their second long-balls of the season.
Brandon Williamson got his first home start for the Frogs, and he battled admirably despite an inconsistent strike zone from home plate umpire Todd Waters. Williamson lasted five innings, striking out five, walking three, and allowing three runs (just one earned).
Great defense protected a late lead for the Frogs, as a 9-3-2 relay from Andrew Keefer to Jake Guenther to Alex Isola gunned down the potential game-tying run in the bottom of the eighth. Austin Henry made back to back impressive plays at second base in the ninth as well to help seal the victory.
Freshman closer Marcelo Perez had his first save opportunity of the season, and he pitched incredibly well. Coming in to start the eighth, Perez went two innings, striking out one and allowing just two hits. He has an impressive fastball, topping out at 96 miles per hour on the day, and his secondary stuff looks like it will be an incredible weapon once he fine tunes it a bit.
TCU jumped on Frankie Scalzo early, pushing two runs across in the first inning. Jake Guenther hit his second home run of the season with two outs, scoring Porter Brown. The Frogs threatened to score more when Alex Isola and Johnny Rizer both reached base, but they were stranded as the inning ended.
The Frogs tacked on three more runs in the third inning, thanks to some good bounces and more power from Alex Isola. Watson opened the inning with a double, and advanced to third on a sacrifice fly from Henry. Guenther followed up his home run with a towering pop up to shallow center. Neither Grand Canyon’s center fielder or second baseman could get out to the spot in time and it fell to the ground.
Watson scored on the hit, and because the ball was hit so high in the air Guenther advanced all the way to second base. One pitch later Isola deposited the ball in TCU’s bullpen, extending the Frogs’ lead to 5-0.
The Lopes responded with three runs of their own in the top of the fourth, knocking Williamson around a bit. Grand Canyon was aided by an error at first base by Guenther, who dropped a low throw to allow Tyler Wyatt to reach base. A double, single, and sac fly scored the runs for Grand Canyon.
TCU got one back in the bottom of the inning thanks to a Josh Watson sacrifice fly, which scored Conner Shepherd.
The score stayed at 6-3 TCU until the top of the seventh, when Grand Canyon used a dropped third strike to get their first runner. A pair of doubles followed to cut TCU’s lead to 6-5.
With the lead just one, Schlossnagle called on true freshman Marcelo Perez in relief to start the eighth inning. Perez cranked his fastball up to 96 on the radar gun, retiring the first two hitters he faced before allowing a pinch hit single to left field.
The next man up for Grand Canyon was Quin Cotton, who had given TCU problems all weekend. He hit a double to right field that looked like it was going to score the game-tying run. But a beautiful relay from Keefer to Guenther to Isola got the out at the plate to preserve TCU’s one-run lead. Grand Canyon asked for a review, and the call was confirmed.
The Frogs had a chance for some insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth, after Bobby Goodloe walked and Porter Brown doubled to left field with two outs. The Lopes elected to intentionally walk Josh Watson and it paid off, as Austin Henry struck out to end the inning.
Perez returned to the mound in the 9th for TCU, and was aided by two great plays by Austin Henry at second base as he recorded his first save of his career.
TCU is now 5-2 on the season, and they head to Huntsville this Wednesday to play Sam Houston State, before heading on to Houston for the Shriner’s College Baseball Classic this weekend.