FORT WORTH, TX — What a weekend it was for Horned Frogs baseball, as TCU came from behind for the third time in three games to finish off a sweep of #13 Oklahoma State in grand fashion Sunday.
The Frogs struck first Sunday, plating a first inning run without the benefit of a hit thanks to Brayden Taylor’s heroics. The true freshman walked and stole second and third on consecutive pitches before scoring on a wild pitch.
That was just the beginning of his big day.
Johnny Ray started strong for the Frogs, keeping the Pokes off the board through the first three innings. But the fourth saw Oklahoma State score four times, thanks to two run home runs off the bats of Mathis and Encarnacion-Strand.
Trailing 4-1 headed to the bottom of the fourth, TCU’s offense did what it had done all weekend — bounced back.
Gray Rodgers got things started with a walk that was followed by Phillip Sikes being hit by a pitch. With two on and nobody out, Elijah Nunez — who had made an incredible diving catch to end the top of the inning — delivered a clutch triple to clear the bases and make it a one run game. Luke Boyers, who was 0-9 with six strikeouts coming into the came and struck out in his first AB Sunday delivered in a big way, lofting a sac fly to to center to tie things at four. But, as they have done all weekend, Oklahoma State immediately struck back, turning a tie game into a deficit with two more in the fifth.
TCU’s bullpen has struggled through the last week, with multiple relievers failing to get the shutdown innings that can be game changers after the Frogs’ offense made big plays. That was once again the case early Sunday, as Braxton Pearson started strong — getting McCusker out to end the four run fourth in relief of Ray and striking out McClean to start the fifth. But the next five batters reached safely off of the freshman, with three consecutive singles, a walk, and a double making it 6-4 in favor of the visitors. With the bases loaded and just one out — and with the Cowboys’ best hitter, Christian Encarnacion-Strand, due up — Saarloos and Schlossnagle turned to Marcelo Perez in a tough spot.
Perez is no stranger to pressure; as a freshman, he was the Frogs’ closer, and a good one at that. But he had struggled in 2021, not having the control and moxy that made him so effective early in his career. He pitched very well Tuesday night against Tarleton State and earned the confidence of his coaching staff — and proved why once again Sunday. Perez got ahead of Encarnacion-Strand with a first pitch strike and induced an inning-ending double play on his second offering, ending the inning and limiting the damage. You could argue it was the play of the game to that point, giving the Frogs a chance to stay in the game, down just two runs in a weekend where that had felt like the norm.
The Frogs went quietly in the fifth but got within one run in the sixth, when Phillip Sikes singled and stole second, scoring on a Tommy Sacco base hit. Perez kept the Pokes off the board in the sixth and seventh before giving way to Chuck King in the eighth, and setting the stage for Lupton Magic once again.
King allowed a pair of singles to start the eighth inning but got out of trouble thanks to a throw out at second on the second base hit, a ground out, and an inning ending strikeout. In the bottom of the frame, it was OSU that struggled, as TCU loaded the bases and tied the game right out of the gate thanks to back to back singles and back to back walks — the latter with Boyers in the box, who once again delivered the game-tying run. With the bases still loaded and nobody out, Brayden Taylor stepped up to the dish, and did this:
@braydentaylor02 #FrogballUSA | #GoFrogs pic.twitter.com/3odmdCRRdy— TCU Baseball (@TCU_Baseball) April 18, 2021
Not tied anymore, baby!
Taylor’s rocket to right field put TCU on top once again, a lead they would not relinquish. The Frogs added insult to injury, scoring twice more when Humphreys and Wood walked in front of a Hunter Wolfe single, scoring Humphreys, and Wood made it 12-6 after a double steal and a wild pitch sent him scurrying home. Chuck King pitched a perfect 1-2-3 ninth, giving TCU the win and the sweep, their third in four Big 12 series this season.
With the victory, TCU ran it’s home record to 14-2 and a perfect 6-0 in conference play. Taylor and Nunez provided the big bats Sunday, and Perez and King were nails out of the pen. For the third straight game, TCU’s starting pitcher failed to make it through five innings, as Ray went just 3.2, allowing four runs on seven hits with three walks and four strikeouts. The Cowboys belted 13 hits Sunday, giving them 40 on the weekend, though just ten went for extra bases (four home runs). The Frogs blasted six long balls on the weekend, giving them 45 on the year, led by Taylor’s nine.
Though the bullpen was problematic at times, it was great to see King, Perez, River Ridings, and of course Haylen Green pitch at a high level. King earned two wins in relief, getting credit for the victory both Friday and Sunday. It was also great to see the bottom of the lineup carry the offense, as they did the majority of the damage the first two games.
Next up for the Frogs is a home game against UT Arlington, followed by a three game set against Kansas next weekend at Lupton. With Regional host announcements expected soon, TCU is putting themselves in a great position to earn a bid for Fort Worth come the postseason.