Luke Boyers and Cole Fontenelle hit home runs in TCU baseball’s win over Northwestern

TCU left fielder Luke Boyers hits a two-run home run in a 9-2 victory over Northwestern on March 22, 2023. (Photo courtesy of

By Charles Baggarly

FORT WORTH – The Northwestern Wildcats have won one game this season, and the Horned Frogs ensured they didn’t win their second.

TCU baseball cruised past Northwestern on Wednesday, securing a 9-2 win at Lupton Baseball Stadium. The Frogs have won two games in two days and are set to play Kansas in a weekend series starting on Friday.

Braeden Sloan, TCU’s starting pitcher, threw six innings, allowing one run, four hits and two walks.

TCU head coach Kirk Saarloos said Sloan was “tiptoeing around” for most of the outing and, in the fourth inning, told Sloan he was a “one-pitch pitcher.” At the time, he wasn’t throwing his breaking ball for strikes.

Saarloos added they were “at the mercy of [Northwestern] hitting at us” and considering pulling the freshman left-hander from the game. Sloan wanted to stay in, and Saarloos allowed it. In the following two innings, Sloan impressed Saarloos with a “different attack”, responding well to the advice.

“It was a different body language,” Saarloos said. “It was a different conviction to each pitch. And hopefully [Sloan] understands what it takes from pitch one and not waiting until 43 pitches into the game.”

The freshman only tallied one strikeout, but the Frog defense had his back, avoiding mistakes in the field. For the second ballgame in a row, the Frogs finished the game with zero errors.

We’ve been playing better baseball in terms of the defensive portion,” Saarloos said. “Turning quite a few double plays, making a routine play that we should play make, you know, and I think that’s huge for not only our team but for our pitching staff knowing obviously that we’re going to make the plays behind them.”

Left fielder Luke Boyers and first baseman Cole Fontenelle, both switch hitters, each had a home run in the fifth inning to power the offense. Saarloos said both players did a good job at the plate, and mentioned the team did damage in positive counts, staying aggressive.

“I thought overall, we swung the bats a lot better in terms of looking for particular pitch in the strike zone and we made it simple,” Saarloos said. “The scouting report is get a good pitch to hit and be on time to it. They did that tonight.”

Centerfielder Elijah Nunez recorded a team-high three RBIs; prior to Fontenelle’s home run, Nunez hit a two run triple facing two outs.

“I felt very comfortable,” Nunez said. “I’m getting back in the groove, and I’m just excited to help my team win.”

Piling on the runs

The Frogs jumped out to an early lead in the first inning. Boyers was hit by a pitch and stole second, and after a wild pitch, he scored on a sacrifice fly from right fielder Austin Davis.

In the frame, third baseman Brayden Taylor tallied a base hit, and was moved to second by a grounder from second baseman Tre Richardson. In a surprising move, Taylor stole third and was almost thrown out.

After review, it was confirmed Taylor was safe. The play was inconsequential, as catcher Karson Bowen grounded out to end the inning.

In the third inning, Northwestern tied the game with a pair of singles and balls in play to move the lead runner over. In the fourth, the Frogs responded by capitalizing on a leadoff single from Richardson and a wild pitch by moving the second baseman over twice. Centerfielder Elijah Nunez notched the RBI with a ground out to short in what Saarloos called a “team at-bat”.

“We have to be a good, functioning offense one through nine that’s selfless and plays team offense well,” Saarloos said.

In the fifth inning, the Frog offense exploded for five runs, running away with the ballgame. Boyers started the big inning with a 343-foot, two-run home run to right field, his second in two days. This time, Boyers showcased power as a left-handed hitter.

Following a Davis strikeout and a Taylor fly out Richardson sparked a two-out rally with a solid at-bat, drawing a seven-pitch walk. Bowen followed it up with another walk and Nunez scored both with a triple to right field.

The next at-bat, Fontenelle launched a 105 mph, 372 foot home run to right field to bring home the Frogs’ sixth run of the inning.

Relief pitchers hold the lead

Sam Stoutenborugh, Garrett Wright and River Ridings served as relief pitchers, each pitching an inning. Stoutenborough and Wright kept Northwestern off the scoreboard while Ridings allowed one run.

Saarloos said Wright looked like the pitcher TCU fans are used to seeing.

“I thought [Wright] was way more under control with his delivery,” Saarloos said. “Still walked a guy. I challenged him with a three-two slider. I thought [Wright] took a big step forward.”

This season, the Frogs have utilized a flurry of freshman pitchers in relief, and have been fighting through injury. Saarloos said the team needs Wright and Ridings to succeed and mentioned they can’t keep relying on two or three arms out of the bullpen.

“We need those two guys who have done it before to go and find their groove and help us out of the bullpen,” Saarloos said.

Up next

TCU baseball will receive one day of rest. On Friday, the Horned Frogs will begin a Big 12 Conference series against Kansas. This weekend, the Frogs will play their fifth game in six days, all of which are at Lupton Baseball Stadium.

“We’ve got to take it game by game,” Nunez said. “I’d love to get a sweep, play our style of baseball and get three W’s.”