TCU’s April Big 12 schedule looked daunting as the Frogs would face the three top programs, all ranked in the top-ten nationally, in consecutive weekends, including two road series. Kirk Saarloos’ squad stared down that gauntlet and didn’t back down, taking two of the series and finishing 6-3 in that stretch. That performance has vaulted TCU to the top spot in the conference standings (TCU at 12-6 is equal on winning percentage to 10-5 Oklahoma State). A series win at O’Brate Stadium in Stillwater is no small feat, let’s recap the weekend and how the Horned Frogs made it happen:
Game 1: OK State 13, TCU 2
We don’t need to dwell too much on the difficulties of Friday night. Riley Cornelio picked up his third loss of the season as the Cowboy batters caught up to the TCU starter’s stuff early and often – surrendering 11 hits for 8 runs in just 3.1 innings of work. The wind at O’Brate is known to be problematic and was especially so on Friday night, as 5 of the Cowboys’ runs came via the long ball, on homers by Nolan McLean, Griffin Doersching, and Jake Thompson. The Frogs also took advantage of the conditions with solo shots by Brayden Taylor and Luke Boyers accounting for all the TCU scoring and 2 of the three hits on the game. OSU starter Justin Campbell tossed a pure gem in the win, not just shutting down the TCU offense, but completely baffling batters. He amassed 14 strikeouts with no walks over 8 innings of work. It was a dominant performance by one of the nation’s top teams and a concerning start to TCU’s weekend.
Game 2: TCU 6, OK State 4
One of the most beautiful parts of baseball is that you can immediately move on from a bad outing with a game a half-day later. The Frogs did not wait long to bounce back, as Tommy Sacco sent a full count bomb to left field in the first inning of Game 2. Jake Thompson, who was a menace to TCU pitching all weekend (6-13 with 4 runs and 4 RBI for the series), tied the game up in the bottom of the inning with an RBI double. The Frogs jumped back in front in the 2nd as a sequence of hits put runners on, while Sam Thompson drove one in with a fielder’s choice and Nunez singled home another. TCU added to the tally in the third thanks to a 3-run towering blast from Luke Boyers to the deepest part of the park and over the giant batter’s eye in center field.
That was the end of the scoring for TCU on the day, as the OK State relievers shut down the Frogs the rest of the way, including Trevor Martin tossing 4 no-hit innings with 5 strikeouts. TCU starting pitcher Marcelo Perez settled in, working several clean innings through the 5th, giving up just a solo shot to Jake Thomson along the way. However, he ran into some trouble in the 6th as an error and a single ended his day, giving way to Luke Savage out of the bullpen. Savage’s first pitch was wild to give up a run, followed by a ground out to score another, cutting the TCU lead in half. The Frogs escaped the 6th as Marcus Brown attempted to steal 3rd after a walk, but Byrne alertly lasered one to Taylor for the tag to end the threat. Oklahoma State threatened again vs. Savage in the 7th via a pair of 2-out free passes, but Jake Thompson grounded out to Sacco. Savage returned to the mound in the 8th and put two on with no outs, bringing the go-ahead run to the plate. Marcus Brown grounded into a 4-6-3 double play. Then Nolan McLean, who also crushed TCU pitching all series, came to the plate representing the tying run – he hits one up the middle that could’ve been an RBI single, but Savage snagged it with his bare hand and tossed it to first to end the inning.
In the 9th, River Ridings came on in the save situation and got two outs around a pinch-hit triple. Saarloos and Cowboy head coach Josh Holliday traded changes, with multiple different pinch-hitter options, eventually setting up TCU’s Garrett Wright vs. OSU’s Jaxson Crull. Wright’s stuff was explosive all weekend and he blew Crull away for a swinging strikeout to give the Frogs the win and even the series
Game 3: TCU 7, OK State 6
Series Sunday was a back-and-forth thriller in Stillwater. The Cowboys got the scoring started in the 2nd inning as three singles drove in a run. The Frogs took the lead right back in the following inning, starting with a lead off blast from 9-hole hitter Sam Thompson and another bomb a few pitches later by Tommy Sacco, following an Elijah Nunez single. Both homers not only cleared the fence, but departed the confines of O’Brate Stadium, bounding to the track facilities to give TCU a 3-1 lead. Let’s see them both:
The Pokes struck back in the 4th, as some tough luck for TCU starter Brett Walker turned into a disaster situation. Following a clean hit to open the inning, OSU got the benefit of some bloops and slow rollers to score a run and load the bases with no outs. Walker’s final pitch saw him walk home a run, as Saarloos looked to Augie Mihlbauer out of the bullpen. Mihlbauer entered in an unenviable spot: bases loaded, no outs, tie game, top of the order to the plate, but Augie was cold as ice: forcing a double play and a grounder to escape the situation with only a single run added on. That flurry of action left TCU trailing by a run after 4 innings. In the 6th Bobby Goodloe got hit in the foot by a pitch, but it didn’t slow him down as he rounded the bases from first on as Luke Boyers’ double to score the tying run. In the top of the 7th, TCU got a pair of two-out singles to send Gray Rodgers to the plate – he had been 0-2 with runners in scoring position for the game, but came through here with a single to score Brayden Taylor and give TCU the lead. Reed Spenrath added to the Frog lead in the 8th with another home run to right field. TCU had the luxury of pulling Austin Krob out of the bullpen for his first action in over a month, as he’s been out with injury. Krob looked to be all-the-way back in his superb two-innings of work: giving up no runs, no hits, and 3 strikeouts to erase the OSU 7th and 8th innings. In the top of the 9th it was Gray Rodgers again at the plate with a runner in scoring position and two outs – Rodgers again delivered the clutch base hit to bring the critical run home to extend the TCU lead to 7-4. River Ridings entered to begin the bottom of the 9th, but a hit batter, double, and fielder’s choice allowed a run and brought Garrett Wright out of the bullpen in his second save opportunity in as many nights. Wright quickly got a K for the inning’s 2nd out, and a grounder that could have ended the game, but a Sacco error allowed a run to score, bringing OSU within 1. The big bat of Nolan McLean was no match for the heat from Wright, as he swung through the fastball for the final out, securing the series win for TCU.
With the 2-1 weekend, TCU moves to 27-13 on the season and 12-6 in the Big 12, climbing a spot in the D1Baseball National Rankings to #20. Oklahoma State is also now 27-13 on the season and falls to 10-5 in conference play, dropping to #8 overall in the national ranking.
The Horned Frogs now head back to Fort Worth for a mid-week match-up with Dallas Baptist before a weekend road trip to Tallahassee for a series with Florida State.