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How Sweep It Is: Russell Smith powers TCU Baseball to 6-1 win over Cal

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The Horned Frogs are undefeated through eight games at Lupton.

TCU Baseball at UTA (April 18, 2018).
Russell Smith carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning and struck out eight Sunday.
Melissa Triebwasser

TCU Baseball found several ways to win over the weekend, using late-inning heroics Friday and a Chuck King masterpiece Saturday to ensure a series win over Cal Baseball, their third series win in three chances. To earn a sweep Sunday, the Horned Frogs did a little bit of everything, riding Russell Smith and a balanced offensive attack to make it eight for eight on their home field, thanks to Sunday’s 6-1 victory.

Smith continued his strong start to the season in his third start of the year; the redshirt sophomore was downright unhittable through four innings, retiring the first 12 batters he faced before a lead-off single in the fifth broke up the no-no. When the Frogs jumped out to a 1-0 inning in the bottom of the first, it looked like the lone run would be enough for TCU behind their star lefty. It nearly was.

The Bears, who were shut out Saturday, didn’t score until the seventh inning Sunday, and by then it was too little, too late. Back to back singles with one out in the top of the seventh off of Smith forced Jim Schlossnagle to go to the pen, and the TCU relievers would hold the Bears hitless over the final 2.3 frames, as only an error allowed Cal to score in the game.

In a low-scoring game, TCU got the dagger in the fifth, taking advantage of a Cal error when Gene Wood doubled home Zach Humphreys — the second time the senior catcher had scored on the day. They added some insurance an inning later when a Gray Rodgers double scores Sam Thompson — who himself had a strong weekend in his first significant action of the season. They exploded for three runs in the seventh thanks to another costly error; TCU needed just two hits to plate a trio.

Marcelo Perez was outstanding as the set-up man once again, allowing just a single base runner, on a walk, through 1.2 innings. He struck out a pair as well. Harrison Beethe closed things out in the ninth, also allowing just one Bear to reach, also on a free pass. Offensively, six different Frogs recorded a hit, with Hunter Wolfe and Gene Wood collecting two each. They each drove in a run, while Tommy Sacco plated a pair. TCU smacked three doubles and drew five walks in the day.

Across the three games, the Frogs scored just 14 runs, but limited the Bears to only five, including one across the final two games. TCU held Cal scoreless for 22 consecutive innings — the Bears didn’t score from the third inning Friday until the seventh inning Sunday. It was an absolutely dominant performance from the Horned Frog pitching staff, from the starting rotation to the pen.

The Frogs will welcome UT Arlington to Lupton to close out their five game home stand, with first pitch scheduled for 6:30 PM Tuesday. From there, their toughest challenge of the season awaits — a three game set next weekend in Southern California that includes USC, UCLA, and Vanderbilt. The Frogs have been excellent so far this season, and will get a chance to prove they’re for real against some top competition next weekend.