TCU Baseball got off to a slow start on offense in their season opener Friday night, but a late rally apparently carried over to some positive momentum Saturday, as the Frogs struck for four runs in the first two innings against Cal in support of sophomore Riley Cornelio. Unfortunately, the momentum swung in Cal’s favor late, and it was TCU on the wrong side of a late inning rally in their second game of the season.
It was the same names that started the scoring, as Brayden Taylor became the game’s first base runner, working a two out walk after falling behind 0-2. David Bishop singled and Gray Rodgers walked to load the bases, bringing up Tommy Sacco with two outs. The veteran short stop delivered a soft single to center to put the Frogs on top 2-0 early. In the second, Kurtis Byrne, who lost the starting job behind the plate to Washington transfer Michael Petrie, only to see Petrie suffer a wrist injury early in the opener that inserted the sophomore into the lineup, continued his hot start to 2022, leading off with a ground rule double and coming around to score on a Luke Boyers single. Brayden Taylor would pick up an RBI with a base hit later in the frame, and the Frogs would take a seemingly comfortable 4-0 lead through two.
While the offense went quiet over the next several innings, sophomore pitcher Riley Cornelio was dealing, retiring seven straight Bears across the first three frames. But a leadoff walk in the fourth led to Cal’s first run of the game, though the rally was shut down by a pair of strikeouts by Cornelio.
The Bears weren’t done though, and came out swinging in the sixth. Dylan Beavers, a potential first round pick in the MLB Draft this summer, launched a ball 400’ over the wall in center to make it a 4-2 ball game. Cornelio’s day would end after he recorded an out one batter later, allowing the sophomore to finish with 5.1 innings pitched, two runs allowed on three hits, and five strikeouts. He gave way to Arkansas grad transfer Caleb Bolden, who worked around a two out double to keep the score 4-2 in favor of the Frogs. Bolden would allow another double in the seventh, and exit in favor of Tommy Vail with two on and one out in the frame. Vail, who arrived in Funky Town via Notre Dame by way of Seattle, had not pitched in a game since 2020 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. His first two pitches were strikes, and he would strike out the first batter he faced, ending the inning with a fly out after intentionally walking Beavers with two down to load the bases.
Another quiet frame for the Frogs in the top of the eighth precluded a dramatic bottom; Lomavita greeted Vail with a leadoff single, Elvis made it back to back base hits, and Manning walked to load the bases. That ended Vail’s afternoon, as Saarloos went to the pen and freshman Cohen Feser in a bases loaded, no out spot. Feser allowed base hits to the first two batters he faced: the first, an infield single that no one had a defensive play on, the second on a fly to the outfield that tied things up at 4. Feser battled for a full count strike out for the first man down of the frame before being lifted for lefty Augie Mihlbauer, who came in to face a couple of left handed hitters. Mihlbauer surrendered a sac fly to give Cal the go ahead run, and then Beavers delivered again, shooting a base hit through the left side to put the Bears on top 6-4. A walk re-loaded the bases and ended Mihlbauer’s day, as another freshman made his debut, Gray Thomas, a righty out of Oklahoma. Thomas was the fourth pitcher to see action in the frame, and got TCU out of the inning, throwing two heaters and a breaking ball for a three pitch strikeout.
That set up some ninth inning magic, again, for the Frogs.
After Logan Maxwell struck out swinging, Elijah Nunez drew a walk. Luke Boyers singled to through the left side to bring up exactly who TCU fans wanted to see in that situation — Brayden Taylor. The sophomore superstar delivered, sending a knock through the right side to score Nunez and send Boyers, representing the tying run, to third. David Bishop came to the dish next, and the impressive freshman drew a walk to load the bases with one out and Rodgers up to bat. Gray drew a walk to tie things up at 6, but the Frogs would leave the bases loaded and head to the bottom of the ninth with the score knotted.
Ultimately, it was the Bears who had the magic Saturday, as Green ripped a triple off of the wall with one out, scoring a batter later on a wild pitch to end the ball game and put the first defeat on the Frogs record this year. Thomas took the loss, but like each of the freshman who toed the rubber, showed why Saarloos is excited about his young staff. Sacco and Taylor were great, combining for five hits and four RBI. Cornelio looked the part of a weekend starter.
Next up will be the finale of the MLB4 Tournament against Houston, with first pitch set for 2:00pm and Brett Walker expected to make his debut on the mound.