No. 15 TCU baseball secures dominant opening day win against No. 10 Vanderbilt


By Charles Baggarly, Staff Writer

After a 256-day offseason, TCU baseball is officially back. 

The No. 15 Horned Horned Frogs took on No. 10 Vanderbilt on Saturday at Globe Life Field, securing an 11-4 win after an offensive onslaught in the sixth and seventh innings.

Centerfielder Elijah Nunez started the scoring with a bases clearing, two-out double facing a full count. In one swing, Nunez notched three of the Frogs’ 10 RBIs tallied with two outs.

“It’s really tough when you are in the other dugout and people get hits with two outs,” TCU head coach Kirk Saarloos said. “You feel like you’re just out of it and it’s kind of a kick to the Cajones, if you know what I mean.”

Third baseman Brayden Taylor followed it up with a deep two-run home run to right field, the Frogs’ first of the year. In a span of two minutes, the Frogs went from trailing by one to leading by four.

Vanderhei starts strong

Ryan Vanderhei had a solid outing to start the season, throwing fastballs in the high 90s while mixing in effective off speed pitches.

Vanderbilt took advantage of the few opportunities Vanderhei allowed, moving runners across at the right times. Although the Kansas transfer allowed three earned runs in five innings, the scoring wasn’t a reflection of the overall performance.

Vanderhei’s strong performance was fueled by his changeup, which was effective against left handed batters.

“That was a huge pitch for [Vanderhei] in the fall and now in the spring,” Saarloos said. “[The changeup is] something that we’re going to utilize because it’s really good. [Vanderbilt] took four or five bad swings on the change up.”

Vanderhei said the changeup was “a weapon” on the mound.

“I got a lot of good swings and misses today,” Vanderhei said. “I’m very comfortable with it and I’m excited to see how it plays for me throughout the year.”

Vanderhei, a strikeout pitcher in 2022, tallied three against Vanderbilt but forced six ground outs and five fly outs while allowing two hits. He outlasted Vanderbilt starting pitcher Carter Holton, who allowed two earned runs and four hits in 3 2/3 innings pitched. 

Saarloos brought in relief pitcher River Ridings to relieve Vanderhei. Ridings recorded two consecutive outs to extinguish what could’ve been a Vanderbilt rally.

“I know he gave up the walk, but I thought [Ridings] got two huge outs,” Saarloos said.

To finish off the last few Commodores, pitcher Luke Savage took the mound. He held them to one earned run in 3 1/3 innings. Since Savage pitched tonight, the Preseason All-Big 12 right-hander probably won’t pitch the rest of the weekend. 

Staying the course

Saarloos called Holton a “first round type arm,” adding strikeouts are bound to happen. Holton struck out four in 3 2/3 innings, but the Frogs stayed the course and eventually found runs in masses.

“We’re facing an elite left-handed pitcher,” Saarloos said. “I thought coach [TJ] Bruce had the guys ready in terms of their plan. I thought they didn’t deviate from that.”

All nine Horned Frogs in the starting lineup made it to first base via walk, base hit or hit by pitch. Shortstop Anthony Silva notched his first collegiate base hit, a double to left field. The Big 12 Preseason Freshman of the Year also flashed his power, hitting a ball 400 feet to the warning track that was caught by Vanderbilt centerfielder Enrique Bradfield Jr.

“[The flyout to the warning track] probably leaves most ballparks,” Saarloos said. “And then he did a good job hitting a double down the line.”

In addition, second baseman Tre Richardson and right fielder Austin Davis got their first career hits and RBIs as Horned Frogs.

“It’s really nice when you put guys in positions to succeed and they take advantage of it,” Saarloos said.

Saarloos added he wanted to rely on guys who had “been there and done that,” a reference to experience navigating a college baseball season. He mentioned Luke Boyers, who got the start in left field and went 1-2 at the plate, drawing a walk and two hit-by-pitches.

A multitude of strong individual performances allowed the Frogs to move through the lineup and extend innings.

In the sixth and seventh, the Frogs scored nine runs and put the ballgame out of reach. If the Frogs can consistently produce these types of results, they’ll be a tough matchup for any ballclub in a weekend series.

Up next

After a top-10 win, the Frogs will face another elite opponent: No. 11 Arkansas.

“[Playing tough opponents] is what you want,” Vanderhei said. “It’s what I came here to do. We don’t shy away from big-time opponents. We have a big game against Arkansas tomorrow.”

The Horned Frogs and Razorbacks are set to face off Saturday at 7 p.m. at Globe Life Field. Cam Brown will start the game for the Frogs.