LUBBOCK, TX — It was another wild one Saturday afternoon, as neither TCU or Texas Tech could consistently make the plays they needed to be each other away, but made enough to keep things interesting.
This time, it was the Red Raiders who struck first, as a lead-off triple led to the game’s first run against Austin Krob, and Texas Tech took their first lead of the series with a 1-0 start through one.
Krob scuffled all day; coming into Saturday, the 4-0 lefty had arguably been the Frogs’ best pitcher (though many would argue that honor goes to Russell Smith, and rightfully so), but he certainly did not have his best stuff against Texas Tech. Krob was unhappy with the mound, unhappy with his landing spot, and unhappy with his stuff: it seemed he was trying to work out of trouble in every inning. The leadoff man for the Red Raiders reached safely in each of the first five frames, and a TCU pitcher didn’t set down the side in order until Chuck King did so in the seventh inning.
The Frogs led off the second with a base hit, and despite adding a walk and a double steal, TCU couldn’t match the Red Raiders’ run. After allowing a leadoff single, Krob struck out the side in the bottom of the second, keeping it a one run game. TCU went in order in the third, and Austin Krob found himself in big trouble in the bottom of the frame. Kelly earned an infield single on a ball to third that Brayden Taylor fielded but couldn’t connect with Gene Wood on the throw, and advanced to second on a wild pitch. He put a second runner on with a four pitch walk, and Jase Jung reached safely on a fielder’s choice that Wood threw into the runner’s back. With the bases loaded and just one out, Krob got a strikeout and a fly out to end the threat, stranding three and keeping the score just 1-0.
That set an absolutely wild fourth inning.
The Frogs struck first, using a Taylor walk, Zach Humphreys infield single, and a Tech error that allowed Gene Wood to reach safely and load the bases in front of Hunter Wolfe. Then Wolfe did this:
That no doubter put TCU on top 4-1... but it wouldn’t last long.
Tech’s lineup is potent, even with two of their best and most reliable hitters on the bench due to injuries. But Jase Jung is still in the lineup, and he has been kryptonite for TCU pitchers all weekend long.
Krob hit the first batter he faced to put the leadoff man on once again, and a single to left put two on with no outs. Krob got a double play ball one batter later though, and seemed to have recovered to be close to getting out of trouble. But the best teams continue to do damage with two outs, and Tech proved why they have a top ten ranking and haven’t lost a home series since 2018 in the fourth inning Saturday.
Back to back two out walks loaded the bases and sent Krob to the dugout, with Chuck King taking over in a perilous position. The usually reliable fifth year senior walked in a run on just one pitch, as he plunked Fulford to make it a 4-2 ball game. That allowed Jung to come to the plate, and he delivered, roping a single to center that tied things up at 4. Tech wasn’t done yet, though, as Stilwell delivered another RBI on a base hit before King got a ground ball to end the fourth.
TCU got one back in the sixth, as Wolfe walked, stole second, and scored on a Tommy Sacco single through the left side.
Meanwhile, though King wasn’t great, he was more than good enough, and seemed to find his rhythm after a somewhat difficult start. King retired eight straight to finish his day before giving way to River Ridings with one out in the ninth, finishing a big time outing with seven strikeouts while allowing just one run on three hits in 4.2 innings of work.
TCU had their chances in the late innings Saturday, but a bevy of strikeouts and a couple of caught stealings led to a lot of Frogs left standing on base as the scoreboard numbers failed to turn. TCU is an aggressive team on the base paths — and has the speed to do it — but taking chances sometimes leads to unfavorable results, and that was the case a couple of times in game two of this important series.
Ridings came on to face Jung in a lefty on lefty matchup, and wisely worked away from one of the most dangerous hitters in the conference. After going ahead 0-2, Jung worked the count full, but Riding’s 92 mph fastball sat Jase down swinging for a huge second out. A ground ball to third sent the game to extra innings, and fans got the intense matchup they were promised in game two of this all-important series.
The Frogs had a base runner in the top of the inning, but the game ended with a walk off home run in the bottom of the tenth, when Cal Conley took a 1-1 offering from River Ridings over the left field wall.
TCU hitters struck out 11 times and stranded six runners, in a game that wasn’t even as offensive as the score indicated. Humphreys, Wolfe, and Rodgers accounted for six of the Frogs’ eight hits, with two each, and Wolfe’s four RBI carried the day. The Frogs seemed a little off, and even accounting for Friday’s fireworks, the offense hasn’t been in sync all weekend.
The two teams will meet for the rubber match Sunday, with Johnny Ray looking to bounce back and help TCU Baseball to their third series win in Big 12 play.