FORT WORTH, TX — TCU Baseball’s seniors made a pact to all return for the 2021 season. They did so because, according to Jim Schlossnagle, “that’s what these guys have talked about — you want to write your own story. Well, here’s your opportunity to do it.”
That story will need to have some extra chapters, as the Horned Frogs gave up a four run lead in the seventh to lose to Dallas Baptist 8-6 Saturday night sending the home team and #6 National Seed to the loser’s bracket of the Fort Worth Regional.
It was all Dallas Baptist early, as the Patriots struck twice in the second inning, touching up Russell Smith with some hard hit balls to jump out to a 2-0 advantage.
Meanwhile, the Horned Frogs’ bats were quiet early once again, going in order in the first three innings and not getting their first hit until the top of the fourth, when they finally started to solve Rhett Kouba as they saw him for a second time. Leading off the fourth, Porter Brown smoked a double to left field, and TCU was in business. Zach Humphreys followed with a walk, and after Brayden Taylor flew out to left, Hunter Wolfe got into one and launched it over the bullpen in left.
Wolfe did that and the bullpen did this (led by former TCU ace and current bullpen coach Matt Purke):
Having been handed a 3-2 lead, Smith went back to work, pitching around a one-out single and walk and ending the inning with back to back strikeouts — both looking. Both teams were quiet in the fifth: the Frogs were held to a single hit while the Patriots went in order, including another inning-ending K. Brayden Taylor hit a one-out solo home run to right center in the sixth, his second of the weekend and 12th of the season. Taylor, the Big 12 Freshman of the Year, had gone 95 at bats since his last home run before collecting two in two games in his first NCAA Tournament action of his career.
Smith exited the game after five full innings having allowed just the two runs on five hits with eight strikeouts. His emotion was palpable and contagious — and valuable, according to Zach Humphreys. “Russ pitches at his best when he pitches with a little edge. Not out of control of his emotions, but using his emotions.” At the end of the fourth and those back to back Ks, both he and Humphreys made big displays, with the catcher slamming the ball into the dirt in exultation as he headed to the dugout.
Drew Hill started his postseason journey strong; he came in for the sixth and struck out the side around a two out base hit. The Frogs gave him some insurance in the seventh; with one out, Gray Rodgers came out swinging, blasting a ball back up the middle for a base hit. Luke Boyers followed with a knock of his own, stealing second with a great slide, and Porter Brown was intentionally walked to load the bases with two outs. Zach Humphreys battled back from an 0-2 count to work a walk and bring in a run, and Brayden Taylor made it 6-2 with a base hit off of the pitcher.
In the seventh and the Dallas Baptist bats woke up, punishing a slough of relievers and taking advantage of some TCU miscues. All of the energy that had been in the Frogs’ favor for the last several innings switched teams, flowing into the DBU dugout.
A lead-off walk put a runner on, and a fielder’s choice made it a runner on first with one out. A base hit chased Hill, and River Ridings made his NCAA Tournament debut, walking the first batter he faced to load the bases. An error by Brayden Taylor on a slow roller to third brought home a run, and with the bases still loaded, Benefield singled home another and chased Ridings. Luke Savage came on in a terrible situation and gave up a bases clearing double to put the Patriots on top for the first time 7-6, before striking out the next two batters to get out of the inning.
TCU went very quietly in the eighth, as Sherlin needed just eight pitches to set down the side in order. DBU added an insurance run in the bottom of the inning, turning a leadoff double into an eighth run with help from a Tommy Sacco error on a pretty routine ground ball that Augie Mihlbauer induced in relief.
Hoping for some Lupton Magic, the Frogs headed to the ninth needing the bottom of the order to pick up the slack. Austin Henry, pinch hitting for Elijah Nunez, struck out. Tommy Sacco did the same — the fourth straight strikeout for Sherlin. That left things up to Porter Brown, but he grounded out to second to end the game and send TCU to an elimination game against Oregon State Sunday at 1:00pm.
In what Schlossnagle called “a disappointing loss for sure”, the Frogs gave up a big lead. But TCU is going to need the young pitchers that didn’t get it done Saturday to be able to bounce back and perform later this weekend if they want to win three more games and earn an opportunity to host a Super Regional. “You’ve just got to move on to the next game, that’s all you can do,” Schlossnagle said. “They’ve been through things like that. That’s our team — there’s a reason we’ve won 41 ball games. Those guys are a part of it.”
“You have to learn from it,” Zach Humphreys said of the loss. “It sucks, but it’s fun. You want to play games like this — you come here for games like this.” Schlossnagle knows that the weekend is far from over. “Still love our team, love the way we battle.”
They will have to battle the Beavers tomorrow if they want the chance to play on on their home field.