No. 10 TCU blanks Michigan behind strong performances from Austin Davis, Ryan Vanderhei

TCU starting pitcher Ryan Vanderhei tosses six scoreless innings in a 6-0 win over Michigan on March 3, 2023. (Photo courtesy of

By Charles Baggarly

HOUSTON – The TCU Horned Frogs and Michigan Wolverines, once again, faced off at a professional stadium, but this time Max Duggan didn’t lead the Horned Frogs to the national championship.

In TCU’s first game of the 2023 Shriners College Classic at Minute Maid Park, the Frogs held the Wolverines off the scoreboard from start to finish to secure a 6-0 victory.

Ryan Vanderhei, TCU’s starting pitcher, tossed an excellent ballgame, allowing three hits, one walk and zero earned runs in six innings pitched. The 6-foot-6 right-hander struck out eight batters.

“I had my slider working,” Vanderhei said. “My fastball felt good. I threw a couple of really good change-ups. Just enough to keep [Michigan] off balance all game.”

The slider was the “big pitch” for Vanderhei, according to TCU head coach Kirk Saarloos.

“[Vanderhei] did a really good job of navigating some traffic and keeping [Michigan] off the scoreboard,” Saarloos said. “We were able to then add on, which was good.”

Saarloos said Vanderhei kept a good mentality up until the fifth inning, when the home plate umpire called a ball due to a pitch clock violation. After Vanderhei had a conversation with an umpire, he beaned Michigan third baseman Mitch Voit.

“So that was a big learning moment for him,” Saarloos said. “But what does it really matter? You’ve got to execute pitches.”

Vanderhei said he was confused after the violation was called, adding there was no clock behind home plate. The right hander had “no idea” how much time was left to make the pitch.

“The next fastball slipped,” Vanderhei said. “I wish it didn’t.”

Vanderhei loaded the bases with zero outs, but stayed the course and was able to get out of the inning unscathed with three consecutive outs. He would continue through the sixth inning, and then relief pitcher Luke Savage took over, preventing Michigan from scoring for the rest of the ballgame.

Improvements on all fronts

In a Friday night pitching duel, TCU’s offense persisted and, eventually, scored in bunches. Michigan’s starting pitcher, Connor O’Halloran, stymied the Frogs until the fourth inning, when Davis hit a towering home run to left field; Davis has two home runs in 2023, both at MLB ballparks.

TCU’s offense showed improvement, but Saarloos said the team struck out too many times. O’Halloran, in seven innings, tallied 10 of the 11 Michigan strikeouts.

“[O’Halloran] was really good in terms of pitching with his fastball and then went breaking ball heavy through the middle of the order,” Saarloos said.

O’Halloran threw 106 pitches, showcasing impressive endurance to keep the Wolverines within striking distance. Saarloos, after the game, said he’d rather see TCU force a pitcher out by hitting the ball rather than working the count.

The Frogs did just that, and O’Halloran, in his final inning, gave up a two-out, two run home run to designated hitter Cole Fontenelle, who was pinch hitting for Logan Maxwell. In the eighth inning, with Jake Keaser on the mound, catcher Kurtis Byrne, second baseman Tre Richardson and first baseman David Bishop notched RBIs in the frame to give TCU some insurance.

In addition to the solid offensive outing, the Frogs showed defensive improvement, tallying zero errors in a ballgame for the first time since opening day.

“That’s a step in the right direction for sure,” Saarloos said.

Davis assisted savage in the ninth inning with a spectacular play in right field. Saarloos called the play an “unbelievable, sports center type catch,” and added it changed the trajectory of the inning.

Up next

No. 10 TCU will face No. 14 Louisville at 3 p.m. on Saturday, and Freshman right hander Kole Klecker, who has allowed one run in eight ⅓ innings pitched, will receive the start.

“Everyone has got full confidence in [Klecker],” Vanderhei said. “I think we’re going to get it done.”