Karson Bowen’s grand slam snaps losing streak, powers TCU past No. 19 Dallas Baptist


TCU designated hitter Karson Bowen hits a grand slam to power the Horned Frogs past the DBU Patriots on April 25, 2023. (Photo courtesy of GoFrogs.com)

By Charles Baggarly

FORT WORTH – Designated hitter Karson Bowen, a freshman, stepped up to the plate in the eighth inning with the bases loaded. The TCU Horned Frogs were trailing Dallas Baptist 5-3 and were in danger of losing their sixth game in a row; the Patriots were on the cusp of winning their 15th straight.

Facing a two-two count, Bowen made contact with a fastball, which flew over the right field fence by the foul pole. The go-ahead, clutch grand slam powered TCU to an 8-5 victory over DBU at Lupton Baseball Stadium on Tuesday.

Coming off a winless weekend in Morgantown facing the West Virginia Mountaineers, TCU head coach Kirk Saarloos and Co. needed to get the Horned Frogs back on track. They delivered, completing the season sweep of the Patriots, a crosstown rival.

To TCU head coach Kirk Saarloos, the win was about “what’s inside [the team’s] chest.”

“We’ve talked about having the pride of playing for your school, playing for one another and playing for the three letters across your chest,” Saarloos said.

The team wasn’t meeting the program’s expectations during the losing stretch, and it affected the players’ confidence.

“That’s what baseball will do to you,” Saarloos said. “Especially if you’re not winning games.”

Some fans were frustrated with the team’s performance, and Saarloos understood why.

“We’re more frustrated,” Saarloos said. “But I would way rather have a fan base that gets frustrated because that means that they care. And there’s nobody that cares more than the 35 in our locker room and then also the coaching staff and extended staff. Nobody cares more than we do.”

Although the Frogs have a ways to go, all they can do is take things one game at a time. Tuesday’s contest vs. Dallas Baptist was a step in the right direction, and the team showcased heart and grit.

A players-only meeting

This weekend, the Horned Frogs were swept for the first time since Saarloos became head coach of the team in 2021. At this point in the season, the Horned Frogs knew they needed to produce results in a hurry.

“It’s been a tough couple of weeks,” Bowen said.

The Frogs came together on Monday, holding a players only meeting the address the team’s recent shortcomings. For Bowen, the team spoke on things they “needed” to discuss. The meeting was “all about accountability.”

“We want to hold everyone accountable and just be honest with each other,” Bowen said. “And I think if we can do that, we’re going to be unstoppable.”

Bowen said the key to holding teammates accountable is not complaining when you are called out.

“It’s okay to be called out, but you can’t be defensive about it,” Bowen said. “You just have to take it and know that you love each other and you really just want the best for [teammates].”

Saarloos discussed the meeting, mentioning the players “care about this university and our program.”

“They have a lot of pride in themselves and in our university,” Saarloos said. “So I think there was probably a lot of talk from all 35 guys of, you know, what they need to do.”

Bowen leads the way

Bowen’s clutch, timely grand slam turned the tides in an instant, providing the offensive firepower the Horned Frogs were missing for the first seven innings. Three players had multi-hit games: third baseman Brayden Taylor, left fielder Logan Maxwell and centerfielder Elijah Nunez.

Luke Boyers was out with a knee injury, and Maxwell made the most of his opportunity. He recorded two singles and drew a hit by pitch. In the first inning, he was robbed of extra bases when DBU first baseman  Tom Poole snagged a hard hit line drive.

Maxwell has started 12 games this season, and Saarloos said injuries have “stunted his ability to be consistent.”

“[Maxwell] is always fighting his body,” Saarloos said. “So I think the big thing is, if you want to play more you play well. When you get your opportunities, make the most of them. And I think [Maxwell is] doing that.”

Taylor hit a home run to tie the ballgame in the third inning and Tre Richardson drove in two RBIs with sacrifice flies.

First baseman David Bishop started for Cole Fontenelle. In 4 plate appearances, Bishop struck out 3 times and flew out once. Now, his batting average on the season is .210.

Handing off the baton

Freshman left hander Chase Hoover received the start, tossing three innings and allowing one earned run, two hits and four walks. Saarloos said, at times, Hoover did more than he needed to.

“I thought [Hoover] was good at some spots and I thought he over pitched in some spots,” Saarloos said.

Relief pitcher Sam Stoutenborough took over for Hoover. In two innings, the Patriots plated three runs off the right hander.

The Frogs faced a deficit, but the next few relievers kept DBU off the scoreboard. River Ridings and Cohen Feser each tossed a scoreless inning, and Ryan Vanderhei picked up the save. Saarloos said the outing was a “big step” for Vanderhei.

“The breaking ball I thought was as good as it’s been in a really, really long time,” Saarloos said. “… It was awesome to see Ryan [Vanderhei] close out the game like he did.”

In total, Saarloos was “really proud” of the bullpen’s performance.

“The bullpen hasn’t been very good for a long time, and I thought they just kept handing the baton to the next guy,” Saarloos said.

Up next

With a weekend series against Texas on deck, TCU has a huge opportunity to get back on track against a tough opponent. The Horned Frogs will kick off a weekend series against the Longhorns on Friday at 6 p.m. at Lupton Baseball Stadium.

Freshman right hander Kole Klecker will start on Friday. The starters for Saturday and Sunday are to be determined.