TCU defeats Arizona in Fayetteville Regional Tournament, advances to face Arkansas

TCU catcher Karson Bowen prepares to face Arizona on June 3, 2023. (Photo courtesy of

By Charles Baggarly

FAYETTEVILLE – The stands of Baum-Walker Stadium were filled with red with a splash of purple during TCU baseball’s matchup against Arizona. Arkansas fans were in attendance to see which team would face their Razorbacks at 8 p.m. Saturday in the winner’s side of the Fayetteville Regional Tournament.

TCU will be that team, as they defeated Arizona 12-4 on Friday night. Third baseman Brayden Taylor, the Big 12 Tournament Most Outstanding Player, continued his dominant stretch with four base hits and six RBIs; in postseason play, Taylor is 12 for 21 with 17 RBIs.

Relief pitcher Luke Savage, who retired nine Wildcats in a row, said it’s “hard to put into words” what it’s like watching Taylor perform.

“Every time [Taylor] comes to the plate, it feels like something special is about to happen,” Savage said.

 Taylor said he’s trying to keep the approach simple and wants to lean on his teammates.

“Knowing that, you know, if I don’t get the job done that the next guy will,” Taylor said. “And that’s kind of been our whole mindset these last few games.”

That’s exactly what TCU’s offense did for starting pitcher Kole Klecker, who gave up a home run to Arizona first baseman Kiko Romero in the first inning. The Horned Frogs responded in a jiffy, scoring three runs before the Wildcats could tally an out.

Klecker, an Arizona native, allowed three earned runs in four innings pitched, striking out five and walking two. Arizona’s offense, off Klecker, had four hits, two of which were deep home runs.

TCU head coach Kirk Saarloos called Arizona’s lineup a top ten offense, and said Klecker did a good job of responding. He added home runs are bound to happen when facing a “potent offense.”

“They’re going to run into some baseballs,” Saarloos said. “It’s how you respond to those situations. … I thought our guys didn’t blink. They kept attacking and kept executing pitches and gave themselves a chance.”

The Frogs responded well, holding onto the lead the rest of the way. Catcher Karson Bowen and second baseman Tre Richardson tallied three hits while first baseman Cole Fontenelle had two. Every starter in the Horned Frogs’ lineup recorded a hit.

Saarloos said it was a good ballgame between two really offensive clubs that have been playing good baseball as of late.

“It’s one game, and obviously, [Arizona is] a really good team that we might face again,” Saarloos said. “But I thought we played well.”

Defense sets the tone

The Wildcats made three costly errors and several blunders, and TCU’s offense was able to capitalize. The Frogs, on the other hand, played a complete defensive game filled with a few highlights.

Right fielder Austin Davis made a diving catch in the second inning, preventing extra bases and, possibly, a Wildcat run. Taylor made several tough plays at the hot corner, making them look routine, as per usual.

In the fifth inning, Fontenelle fielded a ground ball and stepped on first to end an inning. There was one major problem: Fontenelle didn’t have the ball in his glove.

Savage, after throwing a lead runner out at third earlier in the inning, followed the ball and was prepared; he picked it up and dove toward first base to make the heads up, sacrificing his body and colliding with Arizona right fielder Emilio Corona.

Savage didn’t talk to Fontenelle, who was getting ready to go hit, about the play.

“[Fontenelle] has saved me plenty of times,” Savage said. “So just tried to return the favor.”

Saarloos discussed the team defense, calling it “really good.”

“Overall, we’ve talked talked a ton in terms pitching, defense and timely hitting,” Saarloos said. “And if you do two of those things, you’re going to have a chance. And if you do all three, there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to win. And I think we did two of those three, maybe all three.”

Savage stymied the Wildcats until the eighth inning, when Romero hit his second home run of the night, a towering fly ball to right field. Savage moved forward, tossing four innings and allowing three hits; he struck out three and walked one.

Savage called pitching in a regional a special experience and added college baseball is a great sport.

To be out there and to be with my brothers and be with the guys that I love, it’s just an amazing feeling,” Savage said.

Relief pitcher Cohen Feser slammed the door shut on Arizona with a one-two-three ninth inning.

Up next

Saarloos said the team knows they have their work cut out for them against Arkansas, their opponent at 8 p.m. on Saturday.

“[Arkansas is] going to be ready to go,” Saarloos said. “And I know we’re going to have to be ready for our side of things to hopefully give them a game.”