Johnny Ray had pitched less than one full inning since February 26th, sidelined due to COVID protocols. But he certainly didn’t look rusty in his first start since the Liberty series, pitching five innings of no-hit ball with five strikeouts before a lead-off single in the sixth ended his day.
Ray got plenty of run support early Sunday, as TCU scored four of their five runs in the top of the first. The inning opened with two quick outs, with Elijah Nunez flying out to center and Porter Brown seeing a bunt attempt go wrong. But much as they did Saturday, the Horned Frogs’ bats did damage with two outs, stringing together four consecutive hits that led to four runs. Brayden Taylor to give the Frogs their first base runner of the day, and Zach Humphreys got the party started with a rope of a double to left on a 2-0 count, which the hot-hitting Conner Shepherd followed with an absolute rocket to right field for a two run home run — his second dinger of the weekend.
A line drive shot to right for Conner Shepherd #FrogballUSA | #GoFrogs pic.twitter.com/qiRl3ZVAax— TCU Baseball (@TCU_Baseball) March 21, 2021
Phillip Sikes made it three straight extra base hits with a double, and he was brought home by Gene Wood, who collected his fifth two-out RBI of the weekend with a base hit.
Things would be very quiet for a very long time from there.
Ray was sharp right out of the gate, needing just 15 pitches to strike out the side in the first frame. He would retire the first nine batters he faced without incident, and the first base runner he allowed — one a leadoff walk in the fourth — was eliminated by a double play to make it 12 up, 12 down. Ray got three quick groundouts in the fifth — meaning he had faced the minimum through five frames. After allowing a leadoff single in the sixth, Ray was lifted in favor of Haylen Green — though all indications are that they didn’t want to stretch him too far coming off of the long layoff.
The Horned Frogs had their chances in the meantime; after going down in order in the second and third innings, TCU got a double and a walk in the fourth, but left both runners stranded. They would leave the bases loaded in the fifth despite three free passes issued, and stranded Porter Brown after he was hit by a pitch in the sixth. Two strikeouts in the seventh helped Louisiana pitcher Jacob Schultz make quick work of the Horned Frog hitters, but TCU would get something going again in the eighth in support of Green.
Gene Wood benefitted from a weird bounce off of the Cajun’s weird turf for a leadoff infield single, stealing second ahead of a four pitch Tommy Sacco walk. Gray Rodgers reached safely on a fielder’s choice that picked off Wood, and Elijah Nunez walked to load the bases with one out. But the Frogs couldn’t get the big hit to break things open, instead scoring just once on a Porter Brown groundout.
Haylen Green didn’t need the help though. Coming in with a runner on first, he quickly induced a double play and got a strikeout to end the sixth. He got in a little trouble in the seventh, allowing two infield singles, but two strikeouts and a fielder’s choice ended the threat. Green hit a batter in the eighth but worked around it with no issues, and while the Frogs got two runners on in the fifth, they couldn’t push a run across.
Green walked the first batter of the ninth and allowed a one out single after a strikeout, and an error at second by Gray Rodgers allowed the Cajuns to score their first and only run of the game. But Green got a groundout to Sacco to end the game and secure the series win for TCU Baseball.
All eight hits off the bats of TCU came from the lower end of the lineup, with Shepherd, Wood, and Sacco collecting two hits each and Humphreys and Sikes adding one a piece. TCU did earn eight walks, with every player but Rodgers reaching base safely once via free pass. Wood (2), Brown (2), and Shepherd (1) had stolen bases as well.
The Frogs return home for a Tuesday matchup with Tarleton State for a 6:30pm first pitch.