TCU wins opening game of Fort Worth Super Regional behind Kole Klecker’s dominant outing


Charles Baggarly

TCU players line up for the national anthem prior to the Fort Worth Super Regional on June 9, 2023.

By Charles Baggarly

FORT WORTH – TCU head coach Kirk Saarloos took in the view at Lupton Baseball Stadium prior to the first pitch of the Fort Worth Super Regional on Friday.

“This is the atmosphere that you want to be a part of,” Saarloos said. “We haven’t been able to do that here in six years.”

TCU fed off the crowd’s energy, defeating Indiana State 4-1 on Friday. The Horned Frogs are one win away from punching their ticket to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.

The attendance record, which was previously 7,238, was shattered. Starting pitcher Kole Klecker, a freshman, said he loved playing in an atmosphere with 8,812 cheering fans.

“[The atmosphere] was amazing,” Klecker said. “Everyone says Lupton magic. You know, you really felt that today and it’s just great to have the support of the fans behind you. … It really helps you play.”

Klecker experienced nerves in the first inning, but he certainly didn’t show it; he embraced the environment and fought through the Texas heat to pave the way to victory with seven scoreless innings. In 101 total pitches, TCU’s ace right-hander allowed three hits and a walk, striking out nine, a career-high, in the process.

Klecker said he focused on keeping his preparation consistent and throwing one pitch at a time.

“Throw strikes, try to get the lead batter out and let my defense work behind me,” Klecker said. “A lot of stuff was working today. So it’s a really good game overall by the team.”

Saarloos said Klecker, in terms of the mentality of the game, is as advanced as any freshman TCU has had in a while. He added it allows the right hander to be consistent; Klecker has a team high ten wins.

“[Klecker] had a really good fastball today,” Saarloos said. “Commanded it very well. Obviously, the breaking ball was good as well, but I thought the fastball was a difference-maker for him.”

Prior to the eighth inning, Fayetteville All-Regional Team reliever Luke Savage was warm in the bullpen. Saarloos said Klecker looked a bit tired and made the decision to make a pitching change.

“Kole [Klecker] did exactly what we wanted,” Saarloos said.

Savage took over, forcing a big double play in the eighth inning. He gave up a solo home run, Indiana State’s sole source of offensive production, in the ninth inning; Savage shook it off and finished the ballgame.

“[Savage] did an amazing job to close that game,” Klecker said.

Just enough offense

Offensively, the Frogs struggled compared to the performances in the Fayetteville Regional Tournament, where they averaged 14.6 runs per game. Sycamore starting pitcher Matt Jachec went eight innings, allowing three earned runs and seven hits, striking out seven in the process.

[Jachec] did a really good job in terms of keeping us off balance,” Saarloos said. “But it was great to see our ability to win in different ways.”

First baseman Cole Fontenelle agreed with Saarloos’ point.

“I think that [Jachec] was going in and out with both pitches today,” Fontenelle said. “So, it’s always a struggle to cover the entire plate. But just attacking the zone, it’s huge for pitchers, and he did a really good job.”

Right fielder Austin Davis, in the third inning, put the Frogs on the board with a fast exiting solo home run to left field. In the same frame, Fontenelle hit a two-run home run to straightaway center, scoring catcher Karson Bowen.

 “I was trying to be ready for the fastball,” Fontenelle said.

Fontenelle continued his strong day, doubling to right field in the ninth inning. Second baseman Tre Richardson moved Fontenelle over with a bunt and designated hitter Kurtis Byrne, who recorded two hits in the ballgame, brought him home with a sacrifice fly.

“When you can manufacture runs in different ways, I mean, it’s really tough to beat a team that can do that,” Fontenelle said.

In terms of base running, the Frogs struggled; Byrne was thrown out at the plate, Fontenelle was picked off and the Sycamores completed a strike ’em out throw ’em out situation in the eighth inning. Saarloos said Indiana State did a good job, and he mentioned he knew they would.

“We’re not going to stop being aggressive,” Saarloos said. “We’re going to pick and choose our spots. It just didn’t work out today.”

Even with Jachec’s performance and the base running flaws, TCU won by three runs. Now, the Frogs a win away from heading to a place they haven’t been since 2017: Omaha.

“It’s not about one more game,” Fontenelle said. “It’s about sticking with what we do and doing exactly what we’ve been doing for the last month.”

Up next

TCU will face Indiana State at 5 p.m. Saturday at Lupton Baseball Stadium. If the Frogs win, they’ll punch their ticket to Omaha. Saarloos said he’s looking for the team to start fast and finish strong.