Things started off swell for the Horned Frogs in Houston over the weekend, as TCU jumped all over the Cougars in their opening game of the Shriners’ College Classic at Minute Maid Park.
After opening up a 9-1 lead, though, the Frogs allowed five runs to UH in the last two innings, holding on for a 10-6 victory. They followed that up with a 1-0 loss to Texas A&M, just the third loss to the Aggies by the Frogs since 2015, a span of nine games.
That was all fine though, as far as baseball goes.
And then Sunday night happened.
That’s where TCU Baseball has some ‘splaining to do.
Nick Lodolo and Brandon Williamson combined to give TCU 12 innings of four hit, two run ball Friday and Saturday, while allowing just four walks and striking out 18 opposing hitters. Both were crisp and sharp - save Williamson’s third inning command meltdown, and looked the part of elite college pitchers. Lodolo has established himself as a legit ace, and finally got some run support against UH. Despite a 2.37 ERA and a 25/2 K/BB ratio, he is just 1-2 on the season, as the Frogs managed just one combined run in his first two starts of the year.
Jake Eissler further made the case for himself to be a starter going forward, something Jim Schlossnagle remarked may indeed be coming in the coming weeks, after his three innings of relief against the Aggies. Eissler allowed just two hits, struck out three, and walked none Saturday, brining his season totals to six hits and 13 strikeouts in 14.0 innings of work so far. He sports a minuscule 1.29 ERA and has issued just one walk in 2019.
That brings us to...
Jared Janczak’s road back is still in the early stages, and that showed Sunday night against Rice. There is not a person in college baseball not rooting for JJ to return to form, and it’s far too early to put a nail in the coffin of his career as a starter.
Janny was awesome in the first inning against the Owls, inducing a pair of ground balls on his way to a nine pitch 1-2-3 opening frame. But he struggled to hit his spots in the second, and for a guy who relies on placement more than velocity, that is make or break. He finished his night after allowing three runs on two hits, walking two, and hitting a batter. He was hurt by a misplay on a fly ball to right, so it’s not all on him, but it was a tough outing. Everybody is rooting for Jared - the spiritual and emotional leader of this team and the kind of guy you desperately want want in your clubhouse. Hopefully he was just having an off night - it happens - and will bounce back Sunday. Or maybe getting a few innings out the pen will help him get back on track as he works himself back from injury.
Also in the bad category were the bats, once again. After looking so explosive in the two of three in Arizona and two of three against GCU, the Frogs were silenced by Asa Lacy and the Aggies (he was incredible Saturday, it’s really hard to blame TCU hitters for the shutout there) and again against Jackson Parthasarthy Sunday. Parthasarthy is no slouch either - coming into the game he had allowed just three earned runs across 16 innings of work - but the Frogs managed just five hits Sunday after garnering a single (infield) hit Saturday and looked uncomfortable in the box and on the base paths across the final two games. TCU had the lead-off hitter on seven times against A&M and failed to advance a runner based second base. The first five guys in the order - Porter Brown, Josh Watson, Austin Henry, Jake Guenther, and Alex Isola - who were tearing the cover off of the ball coming into the weekend - went just 4-32 over the final two games and managed to get on base just three times against Lacy - all walks. Johnny Rizer, who had been hitting well himself, failed to get a hit in Houston.
That ended in a mercy-rule shortened, seven inning, 12-2 loss to the Owls, a team that was just 4-7 coming into the game - though five of those losses were to ranked opponents and their other win of the weekend came against #12 Baylor. All in all, the scoreboard was ugly, but it was probably not a terrible L on the resume.
As Ron Washington so famously said, “that’s the way baseball go”. There’s no reason to think that the offensive (lack of) production is any sign of things to come or that there needs to be big, sweeping changes in the lineup. It’s as likely that the Frogs ran into a pair of lights-out pitchers on their A-games as there is a real concern going forward. TCU still has all the pieces that you want in a postseason team, and is trying to incorporate a host of new faces into the everyday grind of DI baseball. It’s a process, and it’s truly only just begun.
TCU welcomes SFA to Lupton tomorrow afternoon for a 3:00pm start, and will look to get the bats back on track. From there, it’s a four game week-long swing through Southern California, where they will play a weekend set at Long Beach and a Tuesday one-off verses San Diego. A home set against Eastern Michigan and a matchup with the Mavs at Globe Life precede the conference opener - a home set against the red-hot Longhorns.
I have a feeling the Frogs will be ready.