Frogs ‘out-played’ by Kansas in opening round of Big 12 Tournament


Photo by Sam Bruton

By Branson Nelson

The No. 2 seeded Horned Frogs were upset 7-3 in the Big 12 Championship tournament opener Wednesday in Oklahoma City by the No. 7 seed Kansas Jayhawks.

“They out-played us in every phase of the game,” head coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “I thought their pitching was outstanding. I thought their pitching was every single thing that we want our pitching to be and everything our pitching hasn’t been.”

In what was a closely contested game through seven innings, but the Frogs fell apart as soon as starter Nick Lodolo was pulled after 98 pitches.

Schlossnagle called on the usually reliable Sean Wymer, who entered the game with a 1.65 ERA, in a 3-3 game in the eighth. After a lead off walk, Wymer allowed three straight singles, including two infield singles, to score a run and load the bases.

With TCU down 4-3 with no outs, Cal Coughlin entered with the bases full of Jayhawks. Coughlin picked up a strikeout but followed it with a sacrifice fly, a wild pitch and a single to push Kansas’ advantage to 7-3. Coughlin entered the game having stranded 14 of 20 inherited runners on the season but allowed all three of Wymer’s men to score.

“We got out-pitched,” Schlossnagle said. “You do that too many times, you are going to be having barbecues and packing up lockers. We better be better tomorrow or we will be home in Fort Worth before we know it.”

Coming into Wednesday, the Frogs had won five of six games that were tied after seven innings. Wymer’s tough outing moved his overall record to 4-4 and his ERA up an entire run to 2.47.

TCU dropped to 0-2 against Kansas in Big 12 Championship play, with the first loss coming in the Frogs’ first season in the conference in 2013. TCU is now 9-6 in Big 12 tournament play.

The Frogs’ offense got the scoring started in the bottom of the second as they continued a trend of scoring two out runs with three straight hits including a two RBI triple by Zach Humphreys. The triple was the first of his career and gave him 12 RBIs in just 48 at bats.

Kansas scored its first runs on a two run triple of its own in the third by the team’s leading hitter and run producer Matt McLaughlin. The triple came with one out after a double and a walk and set up the Jayhawks to take the 3-2 lead on a single two batters later.

After a rocky start that saw Lodolo allow 10 base runners in four innings, Lodolo finished his first career postseason start by retiring 10 straight to give the Frogs much needed length from their starter.

If the Frogs are able to push through the loser’s bracket, a fresh and available bullpen will be pivotal. TCU will now need to win five straight games to win the tournament rather than the three it would have taken with a win in game one.

Lodolo went seven innings while surrendering three runs on six hits, three walks and three strike outs.

“I didn’t think about it any differently,” Lodolo said of his first postseason outing. “Every start is just as big. I just tried to go out there and keep the team in the game and give them a chance to win.”

Nick Lodolo pitches seven innings in the Big 12 Tournament opener. (Photo by Sam Bruton)

While Lodolo was shutting down the Jayhawks, Kansas starter Taylor Turski was hanging on to the 3-2 lead. After a lead off double by Austen Wade in the third, Turski set down the next nine Horned Frogs. TCU broke the streak with consecutive singles to start the sixth, but two strike outs and a fly out allowed Kansas to escape the inning unscathed.

Turski struck out Ryan Merrill to open the bottom of the seventh but was replaced by Blake Weiman with a pitch count of 108. Turski managed 6.1 innings against the Frogs, tallying eight strikeouts.

Weiman entered and hit Humphreys. After a stolen base and a ground out, Wade delivered another two out run for the Frogs to tie the game at three. TCU has scored 156 of 367 (42.5 percent) runs with two outs on the season.

Wade’s two hit day was his 17th multi-hit game of the season and he has reached base safely in 103 of 124 career games.

After the four run eighth inning for the Jayhawks, the Frogs went quietly in both the eighth and ninth innings to fall 7-3.

“Today was just one of those days that we didn’t have it,” Wade said. “Usually in late parts we are able to put good swings on baseballs and dive back into a game.”

TCU will return to the field in Oklahoma City Thursday at 12:30 p.m. against the loser of Wednesday night’s contest between Oklahoma and Texas. The Frogs dropped two of three at Oklahoma two weeks ago, but they swept Texas in Fort Worth earlier this month.

On the other side of the tournament’s bracket, West Virginia run-ruled Baylor 11-1 in eight innings, while top-seeded Texas Tech was upset 3-0 by eight seed Oklahoma State.

Wednesday’s opening round was the first time the top two seeds in the tournament both lost their first games since 2008.