Fort Worth, TX — For most of the evening, TCU’s Big 12 opener against the Baylor Bears was an absolute pitcher’s duel. It’s not surprise, of course, as the Baylor staff had exited their series with Texas with a sub-3.00 ERA and Russell Smith had been the Horned Frogs’ best pitcher through the first month of the season.
In front of a raucous crowd that hounded Baylor pitchers and hitters mercilessly, a very quick game without a lot of early action became as entertaining as anything we have seen TCU Athletics-wise in the last year.
Both Smith and Baylor starter Tyler Thomas were as good as advertised; Big Russ allowed just four hits across 6.2 innings of work while striking out six, while Thomas had a no-hitter through five complete, with the only base runners reaching via error and hit by pitch.
Though Smith wasn’t quite as sharp as his opponent, he was just as good; after allowing a base hit to the first batter he faced, he retired 13 straight before a one-out single in the fifth broke the streak. He set down the next five batters after that, but was lifted with two outs in the seventh after the Bears reached base safely twice via a pair of singles. As he has done all season, Haylen Green came in and ended the threat, picking up a groundout to end the frame.
The Frogs finally got something going on offense in the sixth, as Phillip Sikes broke up the no-hitter with a base hit to right center with one out. Zach Humphreys drove him home with a two out triple, and the Frogs had the game’s first lead and first run.
TCU would have all the run support that they needed one batter into the seventh, as Hunter Wolfe — newly back in the lineup as a DH after injuring his wrist — took an 0-1 pitch and launched it over the fence in center field. The Frogs got a base hit from Sacco and a walk by Rodgers, but after a Baylor pitching change, Sacco was caught stealing to end the threat.
Baylor struck back in the top of the eighth, thanks to a pair of TCU errors. Rodgers couldn’t handle a bouncer to second and Brayden Taylor threw a ball away on a bunt attempt down the third base line, putting runners at second and third with one out. That allowed the Bears’ to score their first run on a groundout, but it was all they would get the rest of the way.
The Frogs added some insurance in the bottom of the eighth thanks to a Zach Humphreys bomb, and Haylen Green got a 1-2-3 ninth to earn the save. The Frogs had just six hits on the night, all coming in the final three frames, but got a pair of solo home runs and a triple to inflict all the damage Smith and Green would need. The two error inning was concerning, but the offense delivered and the pitching was as stellar as we have come to expect from these two stalwarts.
TCU and Baylor will be back at it Saturday, with Austin Krob expected to toe the rubber for the Frogs. First pitch is scheduled for 2:00pm.