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Monday Morning Manager: Clutch Hitting, Pitching Problems, and a Sweet Sweep

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The offense was clutch as could be, but the pitching left something to be desired in a hard fought series against Oklahoma State.

There were plenty of high fives doled out over a weekend in which a lot of players made clutch plays.
Melissa Triebwasser

Oklahoma State is a very good baseball team.

The Cowboys can rake with the best of them, and play a brand of baseball that ensures they are never out of games. Plus, Christian Encarnacion-Strand may well be the most feared hitter in the conference, boasting an average that hovers around .500 in Big 12 play and blasting home runs at a rate that only Jace Jung has bested.

So maybe it’s no surprise that the Frogs allowed the Pokes to run rampant around the base paths across their three game set: 40 hits, four home runs, ten walks, and six hit batters meant few clean innings for TCU pitchers and plenty of runs on the scoreboard.

But, despite that fact that they were out-hit in 2-3 games over the weekend, the Frogs finish having not been outscored once. That’s a testament to the will of a team with championship aspirations and the hard work of a handful of pitchers that got the job done in the toughest of spots.

THE FRESHMEN DELIVER

The legend of Brayden Taylor continues to grow, as the Frogs’ leading home run hitter delivered the clutchest of blasts Sunday, turning a tie game into a TCU lead that they would not relinquish.

Taylor doesn’t look the part of a power hitter by any stretch, but the true freshman leads the team in long balls (9), good for fifth place in the conference. He has also proven to have a knack for making the big play at the moment, and his defense at third has gone from pretty solid to downright spectacular as he has gotten more comfortable at the hot corner.

Another true freshman, Elijah Nunez, had a great weekend as well; after watching his average plummet near the Mendoza Line from the leadoff spot, he was dropped to ninth in the order, and has flourished since. An exceptional defender in center field, Nunez committed the first error of his collegiate career Sunday afternoon, but more than made up for it with this inning-ending catch in the top of the fourth:

... and this two run triple in the bottom that cut the lead to one:

Nunez’s 30 walks are the most in the conference, and his average has been steadily climbing over the last few weeks. Having him in the nine hole is a luxury not many teams possess.

Lastly, we would be remiss to not give props to Luke Boyer, whose weekend started so so badly and ended on a really high note.

Boyer was 0-9 coming into Sunday’s game with six strikeouts, and struck out his first AB in the series finale. But he finished the day with two RBI thanks to a sac fly and by earning a bases loaded walk in the eighth that tied things up at 6. Baseball can be brutal, but Boyers is a tough minded kid who has a really bright future.

THE STARTERS CAN’T FINISH

How worried do we need to be about the weekend rotation?

Austin Krob made it just 4.2 frames Friday, Russell Smith scuffled through six Saturday, and Johnny Ray went only 3.2 Sunday.

Combined, they allowed 16 earned runs on 24 hits, issued seven free passes, and rarely threw a 1-2-3 inning. It wasn’t a great weekend, but the offense picked up the arms in a big way, and history suggests it was just an off-weekend as opposed to a concerning trend long term.

The bullpen, though... well, that’s a different discussion.

HUNGRY LIKE THE HUNTER WOLFE

How good is Hunter Wolfe? He had both the game-tying home run and the game winning single Saturday, as his incredible season at the plate continued. He’s batting .352 on the year with 30 RBI, six home runs, and 28 runs scored. He has been the catalyst in the Frogs’ lineup and his play has kept another dangerous hitter, Conner Shepherd, on the pine.

LET’S TALK ABOUT MEN LEFT ON BASE

TCU left 28 men on base on the weekend, which seemed especially devastating with the back and forth nature of the games. Squandering offensive opportunities isn’t the way to win a lot of games, but the Frogs were able to overcome it in sweeping OSU.

LET’S TALK ABOUT RUNNING OURSELVES OUT OF INNINGS

The Frogs’ aggressiveness is one of its best and worst aspects of the team, as they are capable of turning nothing into something (Brayden Taylor walking and stealing second and third on consecutive pitchers before scoring the game’s first run Sunday on a wild pitch) or running themselves out of an inning with a poorly timed steal (see last week against Texas Tech when a double steal call was missed, ending the inning with Zach Humphreys at the plate in a RBI position). The Frogs 73 steals leads the Big 12, and they are converting at an 84% clip — Wood and Wolfe have combined to go 24-25. But there is a time and a place to manufacture runs, and sometimes, fans don’t agree with the coaches decisions as to when those times are.

THE BIG 12 BIG PICTURE

TCU and Texas sit atop the Big 12 as we hit the halfway point of the conference schedule.
Jacob Sailors (@jdsailors)

UP NEXT

The Frogs face UTA at home Tuesday before welcoming Kansas In for a three game set this weekend. TCU sits atop the Big 12 standings, #3 in RPI, and #8 in D1 Baseball’s top 25. With Regional announcements coming soon, the Frogs are in a great position to start the postseason on their home field.