Ben Abeldt slams door shut on Kansas State, punches TCU’s ticket to Big 12 Championship


Freshman Ben Abeldt stands in front of the team during the TCU alma mater in a 6-3 win over Kansas State in the Big 12 Tournament on May 27, 2023. (Photo courtesy of the Big 12 Conference.)

By Charles Baggarly

ARLINGTON – The Horned Frogs had only three hits in the ballgame. Normally, that wouldn’t translate to winning baseball.

Saturday wasn’t a normal day. TCU defeated Kansas State 6-3, advancing to the Big 12 Championship.

“I thought [Kansas State] laid it all on the line,” TCU head coach Kirk Saarloos said. “I thought we did too.”

Even though TCU’s offense didn’t replicate the results from the first two games of the Big 12 Tournament, Saarloos said they were producing quality at-bats the entire game. The Frogs made up for the lack of hits with well-executed small ball, five walks and three stolen bases; the pressure created on the base paths caused a few costly Wildcat defensive errors.

“There’s a lot of different ways to win,” Saarloos said. “I think we had 30-something hits the first two games and three hits today and still found a way to win. I think that’s the sign of a good team. A sign of a team that can win in different ways.”

Relief pitcher Ben Abeldt slammed the door shut on Kansas State, tossing three 1/3 scoreless innings to punch the Frogs’ ticket to the championship. Abeldt recorded ten total outs with seven of them being strikeouts.

“I just focused on just getting the ball in the strike zone and letting my defensive do the job,” Abeldt said.

According to Saarloos, Abeldt only threw a couple of off-speed pitches and commanded the fastball. Abeldt’s three ⅓ innings saved the Horned Frogs from using more relievers, which they will need for Sunday’s championship.

“[Abeldt] gave us a great opportunity and was throwing the ball really well,” Saarloos said.

Sam Stoutenborough started on the mound for TCU, tossing five innings and allowing three earned runs. The Wildcats put Stoutenborough in tough situations, but he persisted and limited the damage.

Saarloos referenced Stoutenborough’s outing against Kansas State last weekend, adding the Wildcats were familiar with his style. He mixed things up with “right on right change-ups”. Saarloos said the Wildcats were able to bend Stoutenborough, but failed to break him; it kept TCU in the ballgame.

“[Stoutenborough] gave up nine hits but made some really key pitches when he needed to,” Saarloos said.

TCU’s offensive performance wasn’t spectacular, but it did just enough. Designated hitter Kurtis Byrne had the highlight knock of the game with his second home run of the Big 12 Tournament.

Up next

The Big 12 Championship is slated for 5 p.m. Sunday at Globe Life Field. The game will be broadcasted on ESPNU.

TCU will face Oklahoma State or Texas Tech, depending on the results of Saturday’s games. To make the championship, Oklahoma State has to defeat Texas Tech twice, while Texas Tech has to win once.

If TCU had lost to Kansas State, they would’ve had to play again. Saarloos was thankful to recieve the extra rest ahead of the Big 12 title game.

“I did not want to play tonight,” Saarloos said. “I don’t think these guys [players] did either. It’s way more fun when you win the nine o’clock game, and then you get off your feet.”

Saarloos discussed the offense’s three-hit performance, saying “we’ll adjust and figure out what we need to do.”

“I don’t mind the 19 hits and a bunch of runs,” Saarloos said in a joking manner. “I enjoy it. I told coach [TJ] Bruce, if you could put those signs on more that’d be a lot more fun. But tomorrow’s gonna be fun. These guys deserve it in terms of being in a championship game because of what they’ve gone through and what they’ve done.”