No. 16 Oklahoma State defeats TCU behind five early home runs

TCU centerfielder Austin Davis tallies two base hits in a 7-6 loss to Oklahoma State on April 7, 2023. (Photo courtesy of

By Charles Baggarly

FORT WORTH – TCU centerfielder Austin Davis stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning.

The Horned Frogs were down a run and needed some Lupton Magic. Davis took a big swing and made solid contact, launching a ball toward left center.

The potential game-tying home run fell a few feet short, and Oklahoma State left fielder Nolan Schubart made a running catch on the warning track.

“Wrong part of the yard,” TCU head coach Kirk Saarloos said, referencing the deep fly ball.

No. 16 Oklahoma State took down TCU 7-6 on Thursday, leading from start to finish and tallying five home runs off starting pitcher Chase Hoover. Now, the Horned Frogs are one loss away from dropping their third Big 12 Conference play series.

Saarloos credited the Cowboys for taking five “really good” swings.

“We haven’t been able to keep [opponents] off the scoreboard early in ballgames,” Saarloos said. “We’re always seeming to have to fallback and win in a shootout. That’s not very fun for a team and an offense that has done a good job, for the most part. So we just gotta get we gotta get better starting pitching.”

It appeared TCU was heading in the right direction with improved offensive production and semi-consistent defense. Facing elite offenses has been a challenge; In the past five ball games, TCU has allowed an average of 10.4 runs per game and 52 total runs.

The college baseball season is a long one, and there’s plenty of opportunity to turn things around. Saarloos mentioned TCU can capitalize in future matchups against Texas, West Virginia and the two ballgames left against Oklahoma State.

“It’s getting close to the point where you can’t say [the season is out in front of you] anymore,” Saarloos said. “You gotta go out win baseball games, but I thought they competed well. They just ran into five balls.”

Staying within striking distance

Although the offense fought hard, the scoring was too little too late. The Cowboys had their own home run derby facing Hoover, creating an early, sizable lead that was too much for the Horned Frogs to overcome.

The bullpen did a solid job in relief of Hoover, keeping the contest close. Spearheading the charge was Ryan Vanderhei, TCU’s usual Friday night starter. After allowing ten runs in his last two starts, Vanderhei was moved to the bullpen.

“I think [Vanderhei has] handled [the move to the bullpen] extremely well and professionally,” Saarloos said. “He just wants to help the team win.”

To Vanderhei, the role change was “something that needed to be done.”

Vanderhei thrived in relief, tossing three scoreless innings and escaping a few jams. Following up Vanderhei’s performance, River Ridings threw one 2/3 innings, allowing zero runs.

In the ninth inning, the Cowboys had runners on the corners with two outs. Saarloos made a call to the bullpen and brought in Hunter Hodges to make his debut as a Horned Frog. He secured the clutch out, putting the Frogs in a good position to tie the game.

An injury has kept Hodges, a valuable arm, out of action thus far this season. Saarloos said having Hodges healthy provides hope that bullpen depth will improve.

Vanderhei said Hodges pitching ability is “lights out” and has seen him dominate in spring and fall practices.

“[Hodges is] going to help us tremendously down the stretch,” Vanderhei said. “And it’s amazing to see him come back and just throw strikes and do what he did tonight.”

The difference in the ballgame, according to Saarloos, was the home runs allowed by Hoover. When the Cowboys made contact, the wind carried fly balls over the outfield fence.

Although the long balls weren’t ideal, Hoover’s performance had a few positives. The freshman left hander tallied six strikeouts and allowed seven hits.

Vanderhei said even though Hoover allowed five home runs, his stuff “looks great” and credited Oklahoma State for its offensive talent and power.

“[Hoover had] a lot of big strikeouts,” Vanderhei said. “He might be a little upset at himself tonight but at the end of the day, when he looks back at the film, he’s not going to be too upset. I mean, [Oklahoma State is] a great team. They just put a couple of good swings on the ball and unfortunately, they just left the yard.”

Defensively, the Frogs played one of their best games of the season. Third baseman Brayden Taylor and Cole Fontenelle made tough plays and the team didn’t have any serious blunders.

Offensively, Fontenelle, Davis and catcher Karson Bowen led the way with two hits each. Fontenelle hit the Frogs’ sole home run, his eighth of the year.

Up next

TCU will face Oklahoma State in game two of the weekend series at 8 p.m. on Friday. The contest will take place at Lupton Baseball Stadium and will be televised on ESPNU. Freshman right hander Kole Klecker will start for the Horned Frogs.