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No. 2 Vanderbilt 4, TCU 3: Commodores walk-off the Frogs in an entertaining game

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TCU jumped out to an early lead, but the no. 2 team in the country battled back.

TCU Baseball vs Kentucky | February 15, 2020 | Lupton Stadium, Fort Worth, TX
Tommy Sacco was the only Horned Frog to collect two hits Sunday against Vanderbilt.
Melissa Triebwasser

For the second day in a row, TCU Baseball struck first against a top five opponent, and once again, freshman Sam Thompson was the first to cross the dish. But, this time the early lead would not hold up, as the Frogs squandered a couple of late scoring opportunities to drop the second game of their weekend in Los Angeles.

As previously stated, Thompson gave the Frogs a 1-0 lead over no. 2 Vanderbilt, as the freshman outfielder was hit by a pitch to lead off the game, took second on a failed pick-off attempt, and scored on Tommy Sacco’s double. It would be the fourth frame before another run crossed, as both starting pitchers did a masterful job keeping their opponent off of the scoreboard.

Jack Leiter, son of former major-league pitcher Al, was chased in the fifth frame, throwing 4.2 innings of four hit, three run ball. He walked four Frogs and struck out four on the day. TCU did their damage in that inning with two outs, with Sam Thompson once again serving as the straw that stirs the drink. Porter Brown had the first blow, singling to left after Sikes and Goodloe both flew out. Thompson walked and both base runners advanced on a wild pitch. A second wild pitch allowed Brown to score, and after Tommy Sacco drew a walk, Gene Wood’s single made it a 3-1 TCU lead.

Russell Smith stayed out of serious trouble until the fifth as well, setting a career high in strikeouts, nine, along the way. But the Commodores got to the big lefty with three straight hits including a two-run double. Smith got through the inning but was lifted in favor of Drew Hill for the sixth, who struck out three of the first four batters he faced before his own issues popped up in the ninth.

TCU had a couple of good scoring opportunities in the late innings, most notably in the seventh. Thompson reached once again, this time on a single to short, advancing to third on Sacco’s double. After Gene Wood popped out, the Frogs loaded the bases on an intentional walk, putting them in a great spot with just one out. But Gray Rodgers and Conner Shepherd struck out, ending the inning and keeping the score tied at three.

Vandy got rolling on offense again in the ninth, but it is fair to question Schloss’ decision to leave Drew Hill on the mound. Hill has been great out of the bullpen all season for TCU, allowing just one run on five hits through 10.2 innings coming into Sunday’s game. Having pitched three innings already in a tie game — he has yet to throw more than three innings in a game this season — TCU could have gone to any number of options out of the pen, including closer Harrison Beethe or late-inning wunderkind Marcelo Perez. Schloss stuck with the righty though, keeping him on the mound through a leadoff double, a bunt that left everyone safe, and a walk that loaded the bases. It wasn’t until Hill fell behind the next batter 2-0 that Schlossnagle made the call, going to Haylen Green in a bases-loaded, no out situation in the bottom of the ninth in a tie game. And spotted the hitter two balls.

Green fell behind 3-0 before getting a strike, but issued a walk off walk on the next pitch, giving Vandy the win and sending the Frogs to their first 1-2 weekend of the season. With the loss, TCU falls to 11-4 on the season and 0-1 in neutral site games. This was absolutely a winnable game, and it stings to drop an opportunity against such a good team, but there is still plenty to be excited about from the weekend. The Frogs will get one more shot on the West Coast, barring impending inclement weather forcing a cancellation, when they face their old Mountain West rival San Diego State Tuesday night on their home field. They’ll finish off the bulk of their non-conference schedule next weekend at home, when they face off with Maryland for a three game set.