TCU Baseball put a runner on base in every inning against Cal Friday night, and used a six-run sixth to run away from the Bears 13-2 and into the winner’s bracket in the opening game for both teams in the Fayetteville regional.
The Frogs scored a run in the opening inning thanks to a Hunter Wolfe double and a Bear error, as TCU’s DH scored from third on a strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out gone wrong. They would add a run in the third, which almost be more than enough behind the pitching of Brandon Williamson and Charles King.
“Effectively wild” was how Williamson’s first few innings were characterized by fellow Frogs O’ War scribe Parker Fleming, and it’s an apt description of the junior lefty’s night. Williamson labored through the first inning, needing ten pitches to get his first out - a strike out looking - before settling into a 1-2-3 opening frame. He would not allow a hit until the bottom of the third, holding a potent Bears’ down while his offense worked on run support behind him.
Up 2-0 in the fourth, TCU finally showed some cracks, as the Bears broke through for their first run of the ball game. Andrew Vaughn, one of the best hitters in the country, led off the inning with walk - it would be the only time he reached base in the game, but he made it count, coming around to score when the Bears got back to back singles from their catcher and second baseman. The Frogs got it right back in the top of the fifth, though, as Hunter Wolfe heated up just in time with a leadoff solo shot to left. It was just the third run scored off of Cal ace Jared Horn, who struck out a ton of TCU hitters (six) but got absolutely lit up otherwise. He would finish having allowed five runs on seven hits, three earned, while issuing four walks and allowing the one run. Williamson, meanwhile, went just 4.0 innings but allowed just the one run three hits with seven Ks and two free passes.
King took over in the fifth and was hit typical self, needing just ten pitches to get through the first of three consecutive 1-2-3 frames. He would get a little insurance whether he needed it or not when the Frogs’ offense exploded for a six run sixth that put the game out of reach.
Conner Shepherd started things off with a lead-off walk, advancing to third when Adam Oviedo’s sacrifice bunt turned into a two base fielding error (nice for the other team to do that, for once). Josh Watson followed with a walk that loaded the bases, and Wolfe continued his big night with a two run double. Jake Guenther’s return to the lineup was productive as well, as he made it a 6-1 ball game with a sacrifice fly. The Frogs weren’t done yet, though, as Austin Henry came through with an RBI single, and Johnny Rizer blasted TCU’s second long ball of the ball game, a two run shot to center.
The Bears would score one in the bottom of the eighth, the only time King seemed to be at all off his game, and even then, he turned a bases loaded, no out jam, into just one run. Apparently, that upset the Horned Frogs though, who blistered Cal pitching in the top of the ninth for four runs on three hits, three walks, and a dropped third strike. Andrew Keefer reached on a lead off walk, ensuring that TCU had at least one base runner in every inning Friday night. Back to back base hits by Shepherd and Oviedo brought home run number ten, and back to back walks drawn by Josh Watson and Wolfe made it 11-2. Dean Frew, off the bench for Austin Henry, earned an RBI on a sac fly, and Alex Isola brought in the final run of the frame, when - pinch hitting for Zach Humphreys in his return from injury - turned a dropped third strike into reaching safely.
Haylen Green took over for King in the bottom of the ninth after the junior righty threw just 53 pitchers across four innings of work, allowing the one run on on three hits with two Ks. Green struck out the first batter he faced before allowing a single, and then we saw some really tricky managing from Schlossnagle. The Frogs’ skipper pulled Green off the mound and moved him to right field - he was listed as a pitcher/outfielder when he came in as a freshman - and brought Cal Coughlin out of the pen. Coughlin, who struggled this season and especially in Oklahoma City, was given a chance to get his confidence back - but there was a little insurance.
Turns out, he wouldn’t need it - but Green would get a chance to make a big play, anyway. Coughlin induced a can of corn pop out behind the bag at second for the second out, and Green tracked down a long fly ball in right to end the ball game. With a huge smile on his face as he did so, by the way.
Hunter Wolfe and Chuck King were the stars Friday night, as Wolfe drove in four with three hits and a walk, and King shut down the Bears offense through the middle innings out of the pen. Rizer picked up three runs batted in himself and had a home run, a return to form after a relatively quiet Big 12 Tournament. All in all, TCU had 14 hits and drew eight walks, as every started reached base safely at least once. The much maligned bullpen allowed one run on four hits while striking out three, and the Frogs’ only defensive error was erased with a double play a batter later. The Frogs’ offense also forced Cal to use six different pitchers, which certainly impacts their road going forward.
Now, TCU faces a really good Arkansas team in what will be a very raucous environment Saturday night, but will do so behind ace Nick Lodolo - who will do everything to ensure this isn’t the last start he makes for the Frogs. It should be a hell of a ball game, with first pitch scheduled for 6:00pm on ESPN3.
Meanwhile, Cal will face CCSU in an elimination game at noon.
That was fun... on to the next.