Frogs fend off comeback in 6-5 win over OSU

Photo by Michael Clements

Photo by Michael Clements

By Branson Nelson

TCU (16-5, 4-1) fell behind after squandering a four run lead, but a late-inning push led the Frogs to a one run, series clinching win against Oklahoma State (15-8, 0-2) by a score of 6-5 on Saturday night at Lupton Stadium.

The Horned Frogs built a comfortable 4-0 lead, but the Cowboys used three hits, two walks, a hit batter and two TCU errors to score five runs in the sixth inning.

The Frogs took the lead when they scored four runs in the third inning, benefitting from two Cowboys’ errors while tallying four hits in the inning. A one out double for Austen Wade followed by a run-scoring single for the team leader in RBIs, Cam Warner, put the Frogs ahead 1-0. Evan Skoug then singled before Josh Watson smacked a run-scoring single to right center.

“I really feel like we are turning a corner offensively,” said TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle. “Especially against a great team and a good pitching staff. I’m really proud of the way we played today.”

Up 2-0 with two runners on base, Nolan Brown hit a hard ground ball that got away from third baseman Garrett Benge which was ruled an error. Shortstop Jacob Chappell then picked up the ball and tried to get Watson at second, but threw it into right field allowing two runs to score.

TCU starting pitcher Nick Lodolo had a shutout working through five innings with six strikeouts and was looking like the highly-touted pitcher that was drafted 41st overall in the 2016 MLB draft. Though he has certainly shined at times this season, Lodolo has been plagued by first inning runs and short outings.

The freshman had given up 12 of his 13 runs in the first innings of his five starts entering Saturday, and had only recorded an out past the fifth inning in one of his starts.

Lodolo looked to have turned the corner when he got through five innings of dominant ball, but a deep start escaped him again as he loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth.

Fellow freshman Charles King came on in the most difficult situation possible for a reliever and gave up a two run single and a walk. Schlossnagle had seen enough as he called on yet another freshman, Trey Morris, with the bases full and still nobody out in a 4-2 game.

Morris got a groundout to start his outing, but then gave up a two run triple that tied the game. A relay from Wade in right center field to Warner and then on to Skoug at home cut down the go-ahead run for the time being.

Morris then got a would-be inning ending ground ball to Luken Baker at first, but he booted it, giving the Cowboys their first lead at 5-4. Morris escaped the inning with a fly out to center.

The Horned Frogs quickly evened the game in the bottom of the sixth as Baker led off with a single followed by a two-base error on a dropped fly ball hit by Watson. Brown then grounded out to second base, scoring Baker and tying the game at five.

Morris set down OSU in the seventh despite surrendering a hit and a walk, sending the Frogs to the plate after the stretch.

Ryan Merrill and pinch-hitter Austin Ingraham both struck out to open the inning, but as has been common through the first 21 games, the Frogs started a two-out rally. Wade walked on seven pitches, marking the seventh time he had reached base in nine trips to the plate in the series. Wade has now reached base safely in 10 straight games.

“The last three weeks for me, I haven’t seen the hits fall, but I’m happy with how my at-bats go,” Wade said. “I try to put myself in the best counts that I possibly can.”

After the walk, Warner singled hard back up the middle to set up a two out, two on situation for Skoug. The catcher ripped a two-strike ground ball back up the middle, scoring Wade and putting the Frogs ahead for good, 6-5.

Skoug has struggled throughout the vast majority of the season. His average has held steady around .200, while he has struck out in nearly half of his at-bats. Skoug’s fortunes seem to be turning though, as he hit a three-run homer on Friday and went 2-3 on Saturday with the big seventh inning game-winning RBI.

“My confidence is back. I’m feeling really comfortable at the plate,” Skoug said. “I have put in a lot of work in the cages and with the coaches, so I feel like my swing is more simple and I’m back to being me, not worrying about numbers. I’m just going out there and hitting the ball hard.”

Schlossnagle turned to a fourth freshman and Friday night’s winning pitcher, Haylen Green, for the eighth. Green, who struck out the only batter he faced on Friday, struck out two in a clean frame on Saturday.

Closer Durbin Feltman came on in the ninth for the second straight night, looking for his sixth save in six tries this season. He worked around a one out single using two strikeouts and a fly ball to right field to seal the win and ensure a series victory for the Horned Frogs. The save moved Feltman to a perfect 15 out of 15 in save opportunities in his two years at TCU.

“[Feltman] has been having success, but his stuff hasn’t been the same, his command hasn’t been as good to start the season, but it is really coming on because we are pitching him more,” Schlossnagle said. “In college baseball, you only play four times a week, so if your closer doesn’t throw on the weekend, that’s not good.”

For the second straight night, a TCU freshman picked up their first win of the their career. Friday it was Green, Saturday it was Morris.

The Frogs have trailed in 16 of 21 games this year, but have seen significant success, winning 11 of those contests. TCU will shoot for the sweep of the Cowboys on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. as Brian Howard takes the hill. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN 2.