TCU baseball surges from behind to defeat Kansas, extend winning streak to three

Second baseman Tre Richardson tallies two RBIs in a 8-6 win over Kansas on March 24, 2023. (Photo courtesy of

By Charles Baggarly

FORT WORTH – The Frogs had their back against the wall but didn’t give up.

TCU surged from behind to defeat Kansas 8-6 on Friday, winning its third game in a row. In all three wins, the Horned Frogs made zero defensive errors.

Second baseman Tre Richardson said the Frogs’ clean defense is a testament to the coaching staff challenging the players to improve. 

“They were saying, ‘take pride in what you do. Take pride in your defense just as much as you take pride in offense,’” Richardson said. “And a lot of that just goes back to the work that we’ve put in over the last few days, being focused and disciplined with our work.”

First baseman Cole Fontenelle led the way offensively, notching three base hits. For the second consecutive game, Fontenelle hit a home run.

“[Fontenelle] is doing a lot better job of his preparation of staying inside the ball and not rolling over,” head coach Kirk Saarloos said. “He’s staying through baseballs and that was a couple of big-time hits and then opportunistic offense.”

The opportunistic offense Saarloos mentioned refers to the Frogs capitalizing on Kansas’ defensive misfortune. In two separate instances, Jayhawk players stumbled due to the slickness of the field. Due to the mistakes, the Frogs were put in a good position to drive home runs.

“You know, the field was a little bit slick,” Saarloos said. “With their second baseman slipping on the throw and then the right fielder slipping … just seemed like the field overall had a little bit of a slipperiness to it.”

Without those blunders, the ballgame would’ve been a lot closer. Then again, the Frog defense took care of business, fighting through the slick conditions and making the best of their situation.

Left fielder Luke Boyers said the Frogs’ clean defense was the difference in the ballgame.

“We took some punches and delivered them back,” Boyers said. We’ve got to keep doing that and keep playing good baseball.”

To slam the door shut on the Jayhawks, Saarloos brought in Louis Rodriguez. The freshman right hander has allowed two earned runs in 15 innings this year. Through his performance, he’s earned the ability to close out ballgames. 

“You go with the guy that you feel like you have a ton of trust in,” Saarloos said. “The situation is not too big and he’s proven that,” Saarloos said.

A back and forth affair

To start the second inning, Kansas right fielder Luke Leto hit a home run to center field, giving the Jayhawks an early lead. The Horned Frogs responded in a jiffy with a run of their own after a single from Fontenelle and a double from centerfielder Elijah Nunez.

In the third, the Jayhawks retaliated. A slow grounder was hit toward first base, and Fontenelle fielded it cleanly. Faced with the options of tossing the ball to Ryan Vanderhei, TCU’s starting pitcher, or covering the bag, Fontenelle chose the latter but was tripped up and fell. With the inning extended, the Jayhawks plated a runner.

In the fourth, Fontenelle made amends. The first basemen launched a 373-foot home run to left center, his second in a two-game span and fourth of the season.

The Frogs couldn’t keep the ballgame tied for long. In the fifth, Vanderhei allowed a three-run home run to Kansas designated hitter Janson Reeder. The following at-bat, catcher Jake English made solid contact, landing a line drive in left field.

Saarloos said Vanderhei relied too much on his slider, partially because he had a blood blister develop. His changeup was also affected and he couldn’t establish strikes with his fastball. 

“[Vanderhei] battled, and I know, the results weren’t very good, but [Kansas] ran into two balls,” Saarloos said. “So that’s four of the five runs he gave up. But he kept us in the game at least a little bit.”

Saarloos pulled Vanderhei from the ballgame and Sam Stoutenborough took over. The Cal transfer threw one 2/3 scoreless innings in relief.

Fontenelle, leading off the sixth inning, sparked a much needed rally, launching a double to left center. After right fielder Austin Davis recorded a single, Nunez hit his second double of the day, scoring two runs.

After two outs were made, Boyers hit a line drive to second baseman Jackson Cobb. Cobb bobbled the ball and stumbled, throwing the ball 15 away from first base. As a result, Nunez scored. The next pitch, second baseman Tre Richardson singled to left field, plating Nunez and taking the lead.

After the Frogs failed to capitalize with the bases loaded in the seventh inning, relief pitcher Ben Abeldt put two runners on. With two outs, Garrett Wright entered the game, failing to hold the runners.

Saarloos said Wright performed well, even though he couldn’t hold the runners.

“Even though [Wright] gave up the hit, he came in and established the fastball for a strike and threw the next pitch, a breaking ball, and got the guy out,” Saarloos said. “He kept that at a one-run inning.”

Keeping the damage to a minimum kept the ballgame close, allowing the Frogs to take the lead in the eighth inning. After Leto slipped in right field, Boyers stretched what should’ve been a routine out into a triple. The next pitch, Richardson drove Boyers home with a single, tallying his second first-pitch RBI knock of the contest.

After Fontenelle scored Richardson with a ball hit to second base, the Frogs took a two run lead into the ninth inning and Rodriguez secured the save.

Up next

TCU will face Kansas in game two of the weekend series at 2 p.m. on Saturday. Freshman right hander Kole Klecker will start for the Horned Frogs.