A wild back-and-forth series opener Friday evening set the tone for a zany Big 12 Conference matchup between the TCU baseball team and Texas Tech over the weekend. Despite scoring 31 runs on 31 hits across all three games, TCU blew a six-run lead on Friday and fell behind late on Sunday, ultimately losing the series 2-1. The Horned Frogs (17-11, 5-4 Big 12) will face Tarleton State on the road Tuesday evening before returning to Lupton Stadium and beginning a conference set against Oklahoma State on Thursday night.
Friday: Texas Tech 20, TCU 16
The Horned Frogs appeared to be in full control during the early part of the series opener, building an 8-0 lead after two innings. First baseman Cole Fontenelle blasted a two-run homer to spark the TCU offense in the first inning before the Horned Frogs followed with six runs in the second inning, where both Fontenelle and third baseman Brayden Taylor went long while left fielder Luke Boyers cracked a two-run single to ignite the scoring surge.
TCU took advantage of five Red Raider errors in the contest, scoring one run over each of the next four innings to maintain a 12-6 lead over Texas Tech, who also put runners on base as a result of some defensive miscues from the Horned Frogs. It was another rough outing for right-handed starter Ryan Vanderhei, who lasted only two innings and conceded five earned runs on three walks and zero strikeouts. Left-handed freshman Chase Hoover filled in admirably, though, striking out four through four innings of relief but allowing five runs.
Two RBI singles and a two-RBI double enabled Texas Tech to make the score 12-10 in the bottom of the sixth inning. TCU answered right back, however, scoring four runs in the top of the seventh inning to maintain a 16-10 advantage. Second baseman Tre Richardson delivered a clutch RBI double to left field before Taylor golfed a run-scoring single into shallow right and Fontenelle belted an RBI triple to deep right-center. Fontenelle and Taylor combined for six hits, three homers and eight RBIs to lead the Horned Frog offense.
But the Red Raiders would not fade away, ultimately regaining the lead with nine runs during the bottom of the seventh inning, where the Horned Frog defense failed to many any plays and freshman left-hander Ben Abeldt struggled to find the strikezone. After conceding a run on a fielder’s choice at second base, Abeldt issued a bases-loaded walk after getting ahead in the count 0-2 to bring one Red Raider home. A four-pitch walk and a hit batter allowed two more runners to cross home plate, making the score 16-14 before a ground ball to first wound up as a no-play fielder’s choice to score another run. A two-RBI double to left in the following at-bat ultimately netted the Red Raiders their first lead of the game.
Freshman right-hander Louis Rodriguez was unable to stop the bleeding, issuing a two-run single as well as a solo home run in the bottom of the eighth inning as the Red Raiders closed the game out with 10 unanswered runs. Of the nine runs allowed in the bottom of the seventh inning, only one was charged to Abeldt, meaning errors and defensive miscues allowed eight unearned runners to score. Nevertheless, it was a tough showing for Abeldt, who walked three and surrendered four hits in only two-thirds of an inning of relief.
Saturday: TCU 10, Texas Tech 7
The Horned Frogs once again started strong during the middle game, who took a 2-0 lead on solo shots from Boyers and Taylor in the top of the first inning. Fontenelle doubled and right fielder Austin Davis added a sacrifice fly to give TCU a 4-0 advantage in the top of the third inning, but a pair of run-scoring singles and a wild pitch earned three runs back for Texas Tech later in the frame. TCU’s power surge continued in the top of the fourth inning, where center fielder Elijah Nunez popped a solo blast for his first long ball of the season.
TCU extended its lead to 9-3 over the fifth and sixth innings, where the Horned Frogs saw Davis and Boyers each pound balls over the outfield fence, with Davis hitting a two-run homer in the top of the fifth inning and Boyers adding his second solo shot of the game in the top of the sixth inning. The Red Raiders fought back in the bottom of the sixth inning, tallying three runs on an RBI single and a two-run homer from standout player Gavin Kash, who reached on a fielder’s choice to plate another Texas Tech run in the bottom of the seventh inning. Freshman right-hander Kole Klecker threw 103 pitches for TCU, logging five and two-thirds innings with three strikeouts and six earned runs allowed.
After Cohen Feser conceded his first earned run of the season late in the sixth inning, TCU turned to veteran right-hander Garrett Wright to close the game out. With the Horned Frogs in dire need of a clean relief effort, Wright delivered with arguably his best performance of the season, throwing three innings and striking out two batters while allowing just one hit to earn his first save of the 2023 campaign. Davis went 2-for-3 with four RBIs to lead the offense in the win, while Taylor went 3-for-5 with three runs scored.
Sunday: Texas Tech 10, TCU 5
An RBI double from Taylor ignited a three-run frame for the Horned Frogs, who once again jumped on the Red Raiders early and gained a quick 3-0 advantage in the first inning. Despite TCU’s offense staying hot, Texas Tech’s offense proved even hotter, as the Red Raiders scored six runs over the second, third and fourth innings to surge ahead 6-3 and knock right-hander Cam Brown out of the game. Brown lasted only three and one-third innings for the Horned Frogs, conceding six hits with two walks and two strikeouts.
Injuries began to mount for TCU as the Red Raiders gained control of the game, with Davis and Nunez each exiting the contest after drawing hit-by-pitches. As frustration began to boil for the purple and white, Taylor and head coach Kirk Saarloos were also ejected after arguing calls on the field, further depleting the Horned Frog bench. While TCU scratched runs over the fifth and sixth innings to make the score 6-5, Texas Tech sealed its series-clinching victory with two-run frames during the sixth and eighth innings.
Richardson went 2-for-3 and reached base four times to lead the Horned Frogs in the loss. Right-handers Feser and Sam Stoutenborough combined for two and two-thirds inning of scoreless relief on the mound, while Rodriguez was knocked around once again, allowing four runs on seven hits over two innings. The freshman added three strikeouts and a walk.