Much like Friday, Sunday’s rubber match between Gonzaga and TCU was a back and forth affair.
The Zags struck first in the second, when Gabriel Hughes launched a solo shot to center to make it a 1-0 game. But the Frogs got it right back, taking advantage of a one out walk drawn by Gene Wood, who was moved over by a Phillip Sikes ground out and scored on a Gray Rodgers base hit to right.
But Gonzaga wasn’t done, striking for three runs in the top of the third thanks to some great hitting and a costly TCU mistake. Austin Krob, who had allowed three hits in the first two frames combined, surrendered four straight in the third, as the top of the order went double, single, single, single, plating two in the process and leaving the bases loaded with one out.
That’s when the injuries that have plagued the Frogs this weekend came into play.
With Luke Boyers still out of the lineup since exiting the game in the second inning Saturday, Porter Brown got the start in left, sliding Elijah Nunez to center and Phillip Sikes to right. Sikes, who has not played the corners often in his career, made the decision to catch a ball in foul territory down the first base line, despite the conventional wisdom saying to let that ball fall in a bases loaded situation with less than two outs. Harris tagged and scored easily for the Zags, and the throw from Sikes was hard to handle for Zach Humphreys and got past the TCU catcher, allowing a second run to score. That would make it a 4-1 ball game in the top of the third, and the Frogs would go in order in their half of the inning to keep it that way through three full.
Krob settled down for a shutdown inning in the top of the fourth, setting down the side in order, allowing the Frogs to respond in the bottom.
Bobby Goodloe, who had a tough day Saturday, led off the inning with a walk, and went first to third on a Brayden Taylor single. Taylor took second on a throwing error by the Zags, taking out the double play, and Humphreys made them pay by hitting an infield single off of the pitcher’s glove, scoring Goodloe. Gene Wood’s sac fly to left scored Taylor, and has he has done all season, delivered a big blow with a double to left-center to tie the game at four.
Krob got into some trouble in the fifth, walking and hitting a batter to open the frame, but got help from his defense to keep his sheet clean. The Frogs made some noise in the bottom of the inning as the Zags made a pitching change — bringing in a true freshman lefty for his collegiate debut. Elijah Nunez took advantage, earning a walk and stealing second. Senior Alec Jacob took over and got a strikeout and a pop out before intentionally walking Humphreys to face Wood with two outs, and rung him up on a full count pitch that seemed off the black to everyone but the umpire.
Krob held the line in the top of the sixth, striking out two and needing just 12 pitches to set the side down in order. That set up a strong offensive inning from his lineup, as TCU would take their first lead of the day with a two-run strike off the bat of Tommy Sacco.
Sacco, who has struggled offensively and not quite been the defensive wizard he was touted as by Jim Schlossnagle in the preseason, continued his strong weekend with a critical two out hit in the inning. It started with Sikes, who was able to take a pitch off the elbow guard for a free base, which was followed by Gray Rodgers — another player that is seeming to “get it” after being relegated to the bench for the last several games — hitting a ball to the wall in left that the left fielder couldn’t quite keep in his glove. With runners at second and third, Sacco delivered a ground ball single past second against the drawn in infield that scored the fifth and sixth runs of the game for TCU.
Krob faced just one batter in the top of the seventh, walking Garrett on pitch number 103. That would end his day, but after a tough start, Austin threw up three straight zeroes on the scoreboard to put his team in a position to win. Krob went 6.0 innings Sunday, allowing three earned runs on seven hits (it would become four), striking out five, walking two, and hitting a batter. Replacing him was freshman Jacob Speaker — and things did not go well.
Speaker walked the first batter he faced, and with two on and nobody out, Gonzaga catcher Stephen Lund squared to bunt. For whatever reason, that got in Speaker’s head, and he airmailed his next offering allowing the runners to advance. At that point, the bunt was off, and instead, Lund ripped one into the TCU bullpen in left for a three run shot that put the Zags on top 7-6. That ended Speaker’s day, and freshman River Ridings was able to stop the bleeding with a pair of strikeouts that helped get the Frogs out of the seventh.
TCU went in order in the seventh, and Ridings worked around a pair of hit batters in the eighth. TCU got a runner on when Gray Rodgers singled through the right side in the bottom of the inning, but couldn’t move him over, sending the two teams to the ninth in a one-run game. Haylen Green, who pitched three innings Saturday, came back out Sunday for the final frame, allowing a base hit to start the inning, but got two strikeouts (one on an overturned HBP), and a throw out on an attempted steal of second to get out of trouble.
How about a little Lupton Magic?
The Zags turned to Trystan Vrieling in the ninth, and he immediately walked the tying run, putting Nunez on first. After Goodloe and Taylor struck out — and Nunez stole second — Humphreys was intentionally walked again to get to Gene Wood with two down and the tying run in scoring position. This time, Wood would deliver, hitting a sharp grounder through the right side to score Nunez and send the game to extra innings.
Green was great again in the top of the tenth, needing just 12 pitches for a 1-2-3 frame. TCU once again threatened in the bottom of the inning, with pinch hitter Austin Henry singling and his pinch runner replacement, Rhett Maynard, stealing second. Elijah Nunez walked — after being inches away from a game-winning hit just foul of the third base line — but with two out and two on Bobby Goodloe hit a pop fly just in front of the plate to end the threat.
There was more shifting in the 11th, as Maynard stayed in the game as the second baseman and sending Rodgers to left field. Green stayed in the game and gave up a one out base hit to Morrison, who had been killing the Frogs all weekend at the plate and defensively in the field. Then things got weird.
Stephen Lund hit a bloop single to left, giving the Zags runners at the corners with one out. With a right handed hitter up, Schlossnagle sent Green to left field and brought in Harrison Beethe, hoping to get an out before sending Green back to the bump. Well, Beethe walked the only batter he faced to load the bases, but Green came back to the mound — putting Cruz Shope in left — and Green delivered by inducing a harmless pop fly. That would finally end Green’s day, as Jacob Meador took over in a bases loaded, two-out situation.
Meador did his job, inducing a ground ball to third base for what should have been the final out of the inning. But Brayden Taylor’s throw was low and got by Gene Wood, emptying the bases and putting TCU in a three run hole.
The Frogs loaded the bases with just one out in the bottom of the 11th, but a double play off the bat of pinch hitter Kurtis Byrne ended the game.
Austin Krob and Haylen Green were great Sunday, but TCU still needs to find a true closer that they can rely on to throw strikes and get outs in late game situations. The lineup showcased its flexibility in the series finale as well, but ultimately, the Frogs didn’t make the winning plays that they needed to make when they needed to make them.
Gray Rodgers led TCU with three hits while playing two positions defensively, and Gene Wood had two big RBI. The Frogs finished with seven runs on 11 hits with nine walks and nine Ks.
They will get a day off before welcoming in Arkansas Pine Bluff Tuesday, as they look to end their four game home stretch on a winning note.