FORT WORTH, TX — The long ball hasn’t historically been a big part of TCU Baseball’s offensive MO, but Friday night, they reminded the Big 12 that they have a lot of guys in the lineup capable of sending one over the fence.
In the series opener against Oklahoma State, four different Frogs launched rockets over the wall across Lupton Stadium, giving TCU 43 home runs on the season, and, more importantly, a bounce back win in Big 12 play.
The scoring started when Gray Rodgers — on an absolute tear over the last few weeks — sent a ball 400+ feet to straight away center field to give Austin Krob, moved up a day in the rotation, a 2-0 lead. But the Cowboys would answer right back, putting up a two spot of their own in the top of the third, thanks to three singles and a balk.
The two teams would trade blows over the next three innings, as neither team could find a pitcher to shut the other down.
After Krob allowed a leadoff single in the top of the fourth, he struck out the next three batters he faced, keeping things tied at deuces. The Frogs would break the tie in the bottom of the inning, thanks to Phillip Sikes, who had a night for the ages. Hunter Wolfe and Gray Rodgers led off the frame with singles to right field and up the middle, setting the stage for Sikes, who launched a triple off the wall in center field to put TCU on top 4-2.
Austin Krob hasn’t had his best stuff of late: that came back to bite the Frogs in Lubbock Saturday and reared its ugly head once again at home Friday night. The leadoff batter reached against the left in four of the five innings he started, and at least one hit was allowed in each. He scuffled through four with minimal damage, but couldn’t get through the fifth.
An infield single started things off, and a fly out gave the Cowboys one on with one down. Krob walked McCusker and allowed a single to Hewitt, and his night ended with the bases loaded and two out after an infield fly. Jim Schlossnagle turned to Garrett Wright in a tough spot; the freshman had been solid over his last several appearances, but wasn’t as sharp Friday, allowing back to back base hits that accounted for three runs before River Ridings replaced him and got an inning ending strikeout.
Trailing 5-4, the Frogs got a big hand from a player who didn’t start the game.
Schlossnagle went with Austin Henry in the starting lineup against the Pokes’ lefty, but as soon as Holliday went to the pen, TCU’s skipper went to his bench and Gene Wood. Wood delivered in a big way in a big spot, turning a walk and an OSU error into three runs, when he absolutely ripped one over the right field fence that landed at the top of the outfield berm.
The Cowboys got one back in the top of the seventh off of Chuck King, who gave way to Haylen Green after allowing a pair of base hits. But TCU got that run back and more in the bottom of the frame, with Sikes and Tommy Sacco launching solo shots to make it a 9-6 game through seven.
But this Oklahoma State team is really good and not often willing to go quietly, and they proved why in the top of the eighth. Even against Haylen Green — TCU’s unquestioned best reliever — the Cowboys had success, getting a lead off single and back to back two out doubles to cut the home team’s lead to just one headed to the bottom of the inning. The Frogs left them loaded there, sprinkling in a walk, a single, and an intentional walk around three strikeouts.
Though he had struggled some on the evening, Green came back out for the ninth, looking to earn his eighth save of the season. A comebacker to the mound would retire the leadoff man for just the second time on the night, and Green needed just two pitches to get the first two outs of the frame. Another weak ground ball to the mound was underhanded to first for the final out, and the Frogs breathed a giant sigh of relief as they started their series 1-0.
There are certainly some concerns for TCU after Friday night’s effort, not the least of which is the bullpen. The Frogs needed five pitchers to get through nine innings, allowing eight runs on 18 hits — 15 of which were singles. But free bases, which were a huge problem in Lubbock, were less of an issue Friday: just two walks and one hit batter on the night.
Offensively, the Frogs can be very excited about the four long balls by four different players, as well as the 4-5 night from Sikes and a 3-4 effort off the bat of Gray Rodgers. TCU stranded 11 runners and struck out 10 times, but ultimately put together a fairly complete offensive performance to backup a pitching staff that just didn’t have it.
Unless we hear otherwise, Russell Smith should get the start Saturday, as TCU looks to collect their third Big 12 series win in four tries. First pitch is set for 2:00pm on what is expected to be a rain free, but cold and windy, day at Lupton.