No. 10 TCU baseball defeats San Diego behind strong performances from freshmen pitchers

TCU starting pitcher Kole Klecker allows one earned run in seven innings pitched in a 3-1 victory over San Diego on March 11, 2023. (Photo courtesy of

By Charles Baggarly

FORT WORTH – The Horned Frogs desperately needed to respond after a lopsided loss on Friday. They did just that, powering past the Toreros with solid pitching performances and timely base hits.

Freshman Kole Klecker dominated on the mound, keeping the Toreros hitless through six 2/3 innings. TCU head coach Kirk Saarloos said Klecker did well locating his fastball, which was important because he didn’t throw a high volume of off-speed pitches.

“I thought [Klecker] had great composure and just filled up the strike zone and moved the fastball in and out and up,” Saarloos said. “That’s exactly what we needed from a starting pitcher today.”

Klecker said he felt “really good” about his performance.

“I always go out there wanting to throw strikes,” Klecker said. “I think I did that. I executed pitches.”

In the seventh inning, Kevin Sim, facing Klecker, hit a one-out home run to put the sole Torero run on the scoreboard board. Klecker would finish the inning by forcing a ground out and a fly out, working around an error from second baseman Tre Richardson.

For the most part, the Frog defense did a solid job, especially considering the Toreros were putting the ball in play consistently. Klecker forced weak contact, finishing the ballgame with only two strikeouts.

“My whole thing is executing pitches and trying to create weak contact,” Klecker said. “I think I did that both in the air and on the ground. I feel like, you know, just keeping the hitters off balance allows me to get those ground balls. … With the wind today anything in the air was kind of dying.”

Louis Rodriguez, also a freshman, took over for Klecker to start the eighth inning. The Frogs didn’t know if he would be available due to a back injury, but Rodriguez was able to play; he threw two scoreless innings, picking up the save to slam the door shut on the Toreros in what Saarloos called a tough outing.

Third baseman Brayden Taylor said he was proud of Klecker and Rodriguez for “awesome” performances.

“Even though [Rodriguez and Klecker] are freshmen, they’re handling themselves like they’re veterans,” Taylor said.

Just enough on offense

Offensively, the Frogs did just enough to sneak past the Toreros. Taylor and second baseman Tre Richardson led the way, tallying two and three hits, respectively.

On Friday, Saarloos said it would only take one solid knock to break third baseman Brayden Taylor out of a slump. In the first inning on Saturday, that knock occurred for the Big 12 Player of the Year.

Taylor snuck one over the left field fence to tally an opposite-field home run, giving the Frogs an early lead.

“I just felt real comfortable today,” Taylor said. “Just going back to my mechanics. Going back to my routine. Just slowing the game down so it was good trusting that process.”

Saarloos said the left field corner was the only place at Lupton Baseball Stadium where the ball was carrying, and Taylor’s left handed swing, in that moment similar to a slice in golf, helped it carry over.

“If you play golf, you know when you slice a ball and you slice it with the wind that thing is really going to carry and go,” Saarloos said. “He got just enough of it and kept it just fair and then had a really good hit in the eighth inning. Hopefully that one hit is kind of what gets [Taylor] going.”

In the third inning, centerfielder Elijah Nunez extended the Frog lead with an RBI single, scoring left fielder Luke Boyers, who drew a lead off walk.

The Frogs threatened in the seventh inning, but where unable to score with two runners in scoring position and zero outs. Relief pitcher Ryan Robinson was able to come in the game and wiggle out of the jam.

“The breaking ball is really good,” Saarloos said. “It’s something that gives our right handed hitters some problems, but … we’ve seen [Robinson throw] now. If he comes into a big spot tomorrow, at least we have some reps against him, which will be nice.”

After Nunez and Taylor singled in the eighth inning, Richardson was able to drive home the Frogs’ final insurance run with another single. Rodriguez picked up the save and the Frogs evened the series.

Up next

TCU and San Diego will face off on Sunday at 1 p.m. with the weekend series on the line. Right handed pitcher Cam Brown will start for the Horned Frogs.