By Melissa Triebwasser
Frogs Today staff writer
Needing a win to stay in the Big 12 title hunt, TCU baseball bounced back Saturday with a 7-5 victory at Texas to even the series at a game a piece.
While the win is worth celebrating, questions remain, and coach Kirk Saarloos will likely continue to have questions about his weekend rotation with the stretch run ahead.
Marcelo Perez made his collegiate starting debut Saturday in Austin, and while there were certainly positive signs in his performance, he struggled with his command and stayed on the mound for just 3 1/3 innings. Perez earned the nod by way of his impressive performance against West Virginia a week ago, when he pitched 6 2/3 innings of two-hit baseball and allowed just one run.
But he wasn’t quite as sharp Saturday, allowing four runs on four hits with four walks.
After being blanked by Pete Hansen in the series opener, the Horned Frogs jumped on Texas starter Tristan Stevens for three quick runs in the first. Elijah Nunez led off with an infield single and taking third on Brayden Taylor’s double. Gray Rodgers got TCU on the board with a groundout, and Tommy Sacco’s single made it 2-0 TCU.
Back-to-back Texas errors allowed the Frogs to go on top 3-0 before Texas had swung the bat.
Perez surrendered a solo shot to slugger Mitchell Stehly in the bottom of the first but nothing more. The Frogs stormed back in the top of the second with Rodgers and Sacco setting the table for Taylor and this rocket to left:
The three run blast, Taylor’s sixth of the season, put TCU in front 6-1. It also got him some nationally attention.
Perez played with fire in the second, allowing back-to-back singles to Trey Faltine and Skyler Messinger to open the frame. A couple of sacrifices brought home a run, limiting the damage and keeping the Frogs in front by four.
TCU went in order in the third and Perez slammed the door in the bottom of the inning. But he got in trouble early in the fourth, and this time the Longhorns took advantage.
A one-out walk would come around to score on Dylan Campbell’s two-run blast to left, ending Perez’s outing. Saarloos went to Caleb Bolden, and one of the program’s most reliable relievers was able to shut the door with two quick groundouts.
Bolden was exceptional across his 4 2/3 innings, allowing just three hits and not walking a batter. He didn’t allow a run until the ninth, when Campbell launched his second long ball of the game to cut into the TCU lead. The Frogs had picked up an insurance run thanks to back-to-back two out doubles by Sacco and Kurtis Byrne in the top of the inning.
River Ridings relieved Bolden after the home run and struggled to find the strike zone, walking Stehly with one out and falling behind Longhorns slugger Ivan Melendez 2-0. But Ridings induced a ground ball to third for a game-ending double play.
Texas called a review.
Stehly slid hard into second, taking down Rodgers in the process. Rodgers made the turn but was slow to get up, while Stehly jumped up and began barking at TCU players. Texas questioned whether David Bishop had kept his foot on the bag at first, and despite much protest from the TCU bench, the umpires took a second look.
After review, the call on the field stood, and the Frogs escaped.
TCU stranded nine and went just 3 for 17 with runners in scoring position, but big days by Sacco, who had four hits, and Taylor, with three RBIs, were enough to power the Frogs to victory.
They will look to lock up the series Sunday, when Brett Walker takes the mound in the rubber match. First pitch is scheduled for noon.