The theme of the weekend, at least through the first two games that TCU Baseball and Oklahoma State have played, has been “back and forth”. That’s what these two teams did Friday night, and the trend continued Saturday.
Another trend continued for the Horned Frogs: less than precise pitching from their starter. Russell Smith fell behind almost immediately, allowing a run on two hits in the first. He would get touched up for seven runs on nine hits, including two monster home runs, in just 6.0 innings of work.
TCU finally tied things up in the third when Elijah Nunez turned an infield single into an RBI two base hit that sent Phillip Sikes across the plate. The Pokes went back on top in the top of the fourth on a McCusker home run that went deep into the bushes in left center. But the Frogs responded, scoring twice in the bottom of the fourth thanks to back to back doubles by Gene Wood and Hunter Wolfe and a Gray Rodgers base hit.
But, as we mentioned earlier, the theme of the weekend has been back and forth, and the Frogs quickly lost the tenuous lead that has just gained.
Another recent trend has been allowing the leadoff runner to reach safely, something Smith did for the third time in five frames to start the fifth. After a flyout, another single put two on with one out, and the Pokes got within one on a bunt single down the first base side. That brought up Encarnacion-Strand, the Cowboys’ best hitter, and he delivered a moon shot to left field to put OSU on top 6-3.
The scored twice in the top of the sixth but squandered the opportunity to tie things up at worst or take the lead. Wood walked to start the inning, advancing to third on Wolfe’s second double in two at bats. Rodgers reached safely thanks to an error that allowed Wood to come home, and a Phillip Sikes single cut the lead to just one. But after Sacco walked to load the bases, Luke Boyers struck out for the third time in the game and sixth time in the series, and Elijah Nunez did the same a batter later. Brayden Taylor fouled out, and a huge opportunity went by the wayside.
A leadoff walk came around to score and ended Smith’s day in the seventh, aided by two hit batters in just two pitches thrown by Dalton Brown. River Ridings did well to limit OSU to just one in the frame, something that would be critical in the bottom of the inning.
Zach Humphreys worked a walk to open TCU’s halk of the seventh, and after Wood struck out, Hunter Wolfe launched a ball to straightaway center to knot things up at seven through seven. Ridings worked a scoreless eighth and ninth inning, continuing to prove himself as a one of the most reliable relievers out of the pen. That set the stage for some ninth inning dramatics and more Lupton Magic.
After Taylor flied out, Zach Humphreys singled to center off of Standlee. Gene Wood followed with a single, but was throwing out trying to turn it into a double. It was a weird choice by the veteran; maybe he was eliminating the double play, maybe he was hoping Hump could score on the relay in? Whatever the reasoning, it left Humphreys at third with two outs.
Thankfully, Hunter Wolfe was due up next.
As he has seemingly done all season, Wolfe delivered, singling to deep in the infield, scoring Humphreys and ensuring a TCU win. The celebration was electric, as a crowd that had been enthusiastic all game let loose. The good vibes weren’t over though, as Wolfe pulled Ridings up in front of the pack at the alma mater to celebrate the young pitcher giving the Frogs a chance to make the memory.
TCU has now won three of their four Big 12 series and both at home, and will have a chance to sweep the Cowboys at 1:00pm tomorrow. Johnny Ray will get the start, hoping for a little magic to be left.