TCU Baseball struggled to “earn” runs for most of Sunday’s finale at West Virginia, but, as they are prone to do, the Horned Frogs found just enough to eek out a win and earn their fourth sweep in six series across their conference schedule.
Held scoreless through six innings, TCU help the Mountaineers to just one thanks to a combination of really exceptional defense and great relief pitching once again — a theme throughout the weekend. Johnny Ray got the start and was solid the first time through the lineup, allowing just two hits through three innings of play. But he got in a little trouble in the fourth, allowing a run on a base hit, a walk, a wild pitch, and a sacrifice fly. Ray would go 5.1 innings Sunday, allowing a run on five hits with three strikeouts and two walks, before giving the ball to Luke Savage in the sixth.
Savage, who has started the last two Tuesday nights — earning wins in both — was available for long relief with Tuesday’s game against Incarnate Word cancelled, and he proved himself a valuable piece out of the pen in his first career relief appearance. Coming on in a high leverage situation, with two on and one out in a one run game, struck out the first batter he faced with a flourish. With two outs, he took a hard hit ball right off of his glove, one that Zach Humphreys picked up, pump faked hard to first base, and caught the runner at third making a big turn to end the inning. That set up TCU for a critical seventh inning, one that would give them a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
With one out, Porter Brown pinch hit for Luke Boyers, hitting a chopper to third base that allowed him to reach safely on the long throw. Tommy Sacco singled, and with two down, both runners advanced via the passed ball.
That’s when WVU pitching absolutely fell apart.
Reliever Jacob Watters walked the next three batters he faced — he was up 0-2 on two of them — forcing home two runs without the Frogs needing a hit. From there, it was all TCU, as Luke Savage retired the next six in the row from the mound and the Horned Frog bats woke up in a big way in the eighth. Phillip Sikes led off the pivotal inning with a triple, scoring when Brown (who walked) drew a pickoff attempt at first base that sailed into right field. Porter was able to scoot all the way to third on the error, and he himself would score on a Tommy Sacco rocket to centerfield, the Frogs’ second triple of the frame. Nunez grounded out to the first base side to bring home Sacco, and the Frogs took a comfortable 5-1 lead into the final inning.
Things only got uglier for WVU from there.
Brayden Taylor started the inning with a base hit, and from there, it was a parade around the bases, as Conner Shepherd (who replaced Austin Henry as a pinch hitter mid at bat in the sixth) doubled hard off of the wall in left center and Rodgers followed after a Sikes walk with a ground rule double to right. Sacco earned another hit and his second RBI of the day with a base hit to make it 9-1, and the Frogs cruised from there.
Credit Savage with the win, as he runs his record to 3-0 on the season with Sunday’s 3.2 innings of one hit ball with five strikeouts. Tommy Sacco was the hero on offense, going 4-5 with two RBI and a triple, while Brayden Taylor added three hits and Sikes two. Conner Shepherd and Porter Brown came off the bench to account for two hits and three runs scored, as nine players got at least one hit in the win.
TCU Baseball sits alone atop the Big 12 standings no matter what Texas does against Texas Tech in the series finale in Austin, meaning that the winner of next weekend’s series in Fort Worth will all but control their own destiny when it comes to seeding for the Big 12 Tournament.
It should be a hell of an environment at Lupton when the Longhorns come to town.