We are not collegiate baseball managers.
This is something that we all know: we aren’t there for practice, we aren’t in the dugout during games, our opinions are just that — opinions.
That being said, wow, were there some questionable choices Friday night in a must-win game for TCU Baseball.
The Frogs jumped out to a 4-0 lead against Kansas State, scoring just shy of a handful of runs in the second inning to give TCU what should have been a comfortable cushion in front of Austin Krob.
It started with two guys that returned to the lineup from injury Thursday, with Hunter Wolfe roping a single to center field to lead off the frame and Gene Wood wearing one to put two on with nobody out. After a Phillip Sikes strikeout, Gray Rodgers singled and Tommy Sacco doubled to make it 2-0 TCU, and a wild pitch and Elijah Nunez groundout doubled the total.
Krob shut down the Cats through four, but things got a little hairy for both teams in the fifth.
Porter Brown got the offense revved up with a one-out bunt single, advancing to second on a Zach Humphreys base knock and scoring on Conner Shepherd’s single. Shep replaced Gene Wood, who exited the game after sliding into second the previous frame — his status is unknown at this time.
Kansas State struck back for two in the bottom of the inning, as Krob issued a pair of walks, advanced the runners on a wild pitch, and allowed two runs to cross on a base hit. After another single and a walk, Krob was replaced by Garrett Wright, who got a swinging strikeout to end the inning and the threat.
Porter Brown secured player of the game status in the top of the sixth, lifting a three run shot over the fence in left-center to give TCU some breathing room, and ultimately provide the winning margin. The home run was Brown’s second of the season and third hit of the night, as Porter went 3-4 with three RBI to lift his average to .341 on the season — tied for best on the team.
So tell me why he was pinch-hit for in the eighth? But more on that in a minute.
Wright has been at his best when asked to pitch situationally; rarely has he been as effective when stretched over 6, 7, 8 batters. He faced 12 Friday, and it almost cost the Frogs the game — and may have once again hurt the confidence of a player TCU absolutely needs to reach it’s season-long goals.
And it wasn’t his fault.
A leadoff double in the bottom of the sixth would come around to score, but Wright once again was able to shutdown K State with an inning-ending strikeout. He came back out for the seventh after three quick outs by the Frogs’ offense, and struck out the first batter he faced.
But that’s when things got a little less easy for TCU.
Phillips “doubled” to left, a ball hit off the end of the bat that it looked like Brown tried to keep in front of him before it took a weird bounce off the turf and over his head. That scored the Cats fourth run of the game, and they would add a fifth after another Wright K on a deep fly to center that Nunez lost briefly while trying to gauge his proximity to the wall, leading to an RBI triple. Things got really puckering when Brayden Taylor made an incredible diving stop down the third base line, but the long throw pulled Shep off the bag at first, leading to an error and cut TCU’s lead to 8-6.
After a walk between two groundouts, Schloss made a very questionable decision, pinch hitting for a red-hot Brown in favor of Luke Boyers, who hasn’t been as sharp at the plate. I can understand wanting to use Boyers as a defensive replacement in the bottom of the eighth, but taking Porter out of the offense at that point could have been very costly. Boyers grounded out to end the inning, and Marcelo Perez took over on the mound in the bottom.
The Cats had some turf-based luck once again with time ticking away, earning an infield single on a cue shot to first and another off of the back of Perez, who took a hard liner right back at him on the mound. He stayed in to face one more batter — another great play by Taylor on a bunt down the line enabled the Frogs to eliminate the lead runner at third — before giving way to Haylen Green for the final five outs.
Green was, as per usual, absolute nails, earning his 11th save of the season by striking out two, not allowing a hit, and getting a gorgeous running catch by Nunez for the final out of the game.
With the win, TCU clinches at least a share of the Big 12 title, a crown they will share with Texas unless the Horns lose their finale against WVU Saturday (they were pounding the Eers at the time of publishing this article).
It wasn’t the prettiest of wins, but the Frogs made the plays they needed to, when they needed to, to avoid a horrific collapse down the stretch. Now, we need a win Saturday and/or a little help to secure the #1 overall seed in the Big 12 Tournament next week.