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Monday Morning Manager: Starting Big 12 play off with a bang

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Things looked bleak for the Horned Frogs for most of the weekend, and yet, they came out with a series win.

TCU Baseball vs Texas | March 24, 2019 | Lupton Stadium, Fort Worth, TX
Alex Isola and Jake Guenther collide while going for a pop foul in the ninth inning of Sunday’s victory over Texas.
Melissa Triebwasser

It could have been so, so much worse.

After a stirring rally Friday evening that saw the Frogs score all three of their runs in the bottom of the ninth to walk-off Texas, Saturday’s 13-1 beatdown was surely a gut check. At that point, no one would have been surprised if TCU had rolled over Sunday when facing a 7-2 deficit heading into the bottom of the sixth inning of the rubber match. The Longhorns, after all, are the “better” team, if you pay attention to the pundits, and simply salvaging a win instead of a sweep would have kept the Frogs in the hunt for bigger things. “Human instinct is to just give in and worry about Tuesday. That’s as gritty of a performance by a TCU team that I’ve had here in 16 years. But they never gave in. I’m really proud of our team’ hopefully we can build on it.”

But, there’s some truth to #LuptonMagic and there’s no quit in these Horned Frogs, and after a gritty rally saw them score five times in the bottom of the eighth, they ended the weekend with a series victory over the team that has looked to be the best of the Big 12.

It wasn’t perfect - far from it, in fact - four errors in the first four innings tell that story. And even Friday night, the Frogs nearly wasted a(nother) dominant outing from Nick Lodolo, unable to do much of anything against Texas starter Bryce Elder until their final frame. The boon or bust nature of this lineup surely makes for much wringing of hands, but when they are on, everyone is contributing, and there’s not an easy out 1-9.

That’s what we saw Sunday, and that’s what we will need to see more of going forward.

The Good:

Somehow, we aren’t talking about Nick Lodolo enough. The junior ace has been lights out in 2019, holding a minuscule 1.32 ERA through six starts (41.0 innings). The lefty looks the part of a pro pitcher now; after struggling with consistency over the past two seasons, Lodolo has pitched less than seven innings just once this year - in his first start of the season - and has not allowed more than two runs in any game he has pitched in. He has allowed just nine walks against 55 strikeouts, but has gotten terrible run support from his teammates - though TCU scored 10 and 12 runs, respectively, against Houston and Eastern Michigan, they have plated just eight combined in his other four starts of the year.

Pay attention to Nick now, because it’s probably the last season we will see this likely first round draft pick pitch in purple.

While we are celebrating one star that’s shining for likely one last run, we should acknowledge another just beginning. Marcelo Perez came in in two high pressure situations over the weekend against one of the top teams in the country, and put his team in position to win them both. After allowing a run Friday, he was perfect Saturday, especially coming in in the bottom of the eighth with his team trailing and men on. The freshman bounced back after a tough fall to earn the closer role and the head coach has no concerns with that. “He’s the best strike thrower that’s sitting down in that bullpen. He’s our best guy down there and we are going to live and die with him.”

The Bad:

So, how much do you think the TCU infield is working on bunt defense this week? The Longhorns played death by a thousand paper cuts Sunday, earning five base hints/bunt singles in the early innings against the Frogs. Yes, they were well-placed balls, but it’s been a long time since anyone that follows a Jim Schlossnagle team has seen a defensive meltdown like we witnessed through the first four frames of Sunday’s game. “We didn’t field our position really well - and they had a lot of really good bunts, too. Bunts that you couldn’t make plays on.Thankfully, they were able to overcome their sloppy play and take advantage from some on the Burnt Orange side too. But it’s certainly something to watch going forward.

Another looming concern for TCU has to be the starting pitching. Jim Schlossnagle was open when asked about it following a weekend that saw one great start, one mediocre start, and one really bad one. “The key to us being sustained is starting pitching. The game begins and ends with starting pitching, period, and two of our three starts this weekend weren’t good. Luckily we battled, luckily we have a pretty good offensive team, but that’s not what championship baseball is built on - it’s build on starting pitching. We have to find some sort of combination because there’s not AAA and Janczak’s not close.”

The Ugly

Well, it’s not ugly if you are a TCU fan, but it sure riled up the Longhorns. The Texas Exes planned a little patio party at one of the rental units at Lupton. Well, that was all well and good, until TCU brass found out about it and decided that wasn’t going to happen.

All of that led to this exchange on twitter:

/

Why did TCU win a series they had no business winning?

Because it’s our stadium.

Up Next:

TCU Baseball will kick off a double header of Horned Frog sports Tuesday, welcoming UT Rio Grande Valley to Lupton with first pitch (re)scheduled for 5:00pm. You can catch the game and head over to Schollmaier Arena to watch basketball at 8:00pm.