By Jamie Plunkett
Frogs Today staff writer
HOUSTON – Austin Davis likes playing in professional ballparks.
TCU’s right fielder hit a home run, stole a base, and made a SportsCenter worthy catch at Minute Maid Park to lead the Frogs to a 6-0 victory over Michigan on Friday.
The Frogs opened their time at the Shriners Children’s College Classic with a strong showing, as they extended their winning streak to three games.
“Everything was going pretty good,” Davis said. “I’m just happy the team could get a [win] today. When the team gets a win, I’m happy.”
Davis’ fourth inning home run was just TCU’s second hit of the day, breaking a scoreless tie and eventually serving as the winning run.
“My approach was basically just get on base, let’s get a rally going,” Davis said. “He happened to throw it in my wheelhouse and the rest is history.”
Defensively, TCU played a clean game. Friday was just the Frogs’ second game this season without an error, and the first since the season opener.
“I think we handled the baseball really well, probably with the exception of the ball that Anthony [Silva] bobbled,” Saarloos said. “The guy is a really fast runner…I think Anthony kind of peeked, and the ball bobbled, but it was probably a hit anyways…it’s a step in the right direction for sure.”
Ryan Vanderhei (1-1) recorded a quality start on the mound, pitching six scoreless innings, striking out eight and walking just one. Vanderhei now has a 10:1 strikeout to walk ratio this season.
He did get into trouble in the bottom of the fifth, allowing the first three Wolverines to reach base. Jake Marti reached on an infield single to lead off the inning, beating out a throw from Silva.
During the next at bat, Vanderhei was called for a pitch clock violation, and a ball was added to the count. His next pitch hit Mitch Voit, putting Voit on first base. Following the game, Vanderhei noted that there was no pitch clock in his sightline, so he didn’t know time was winding down.
“There was no shot clock back there, so I had no idea I was even close to violating the rule,” Vanderhei said. “I was asking [the umpire] what the ruling was, and he kind of didn’t know either. There was no clock, so he didn’t know if I violated it, and it was just a washed situation. My next fastball slipped, I wish it didn’t.”
A walk to the next batter loaded the bases and prompted a mound visit from Saarloos. The visit seemed to calm Vanderhei down, as he induced a ground ball to Brayden Taylor at third base to get the first out at home plate.
Vanderhei followed that up with his eighth strikeout of the outing, before getting a fly out to Nunez to end the threat.
In the top of the next inning, Silva reached base on an error and stole second, but was stranded there. He appeared to limp off the field after the inning, and he didn’t return to the game. Instead, Brody Green entered the game at third base, and Brayden Taylor shifted to shortstop.
“Since he’s been here he’s been dealing with hamstring issues, and he tweaked his hamstring,” Saarloos said. “We didn’t want to let it snowball on him and let it get worse than what it was. The great thing is, is you’ve got Brayden Taylor who moves over from third base and makes two or three really, really good plays and made them look pretty easy.
Vanderhei worked around a one out single to keep Michigan off the board, in what would be his final inning of the day.
Luke Boyers snapped a two-game hitless streak in the seventh inning, pulling the ball down the left field line for a hard hit single. One pitch later, Cole Fontenelle – pinch hitting for Logan Maxwell – launched a ball into the Crawford Boxes in left field for his second home run of the game.
Meanwhile, Luke Savage (1 save) entered in the seventh inning to pitch for the Frogs. He allowed a hit before a 5-4-3 double play finished the inning.
The Frogs tacked on three more runs in the eighth, loading the bases with no outs before bringing all three runners home to score.
Davis opened the inning by getting hit in the head with a pitch. TCU staffers came out to check on him, before he took his base and remained in the game.
TCU was right to be concerned about Davis, as they just saw Nunez return to action this week following a similar play against Missouri. TCU’s center fielder missed four games while in concussion protocol.
Davis appeared to be just fine, though, as he promptly stole second base. He advanced to third following back-to-back walks to Nunez and Taylor, and scored on a fielder’s choice hit by Kurtis Byrne.
A pop fly off the bat of Tre Richardson brought Nunez home to score, before David Bishop singled to center, scoring Taylor and giving the Frogs a 6-0 lead.
Savage cruised through the eighth inning, and got a little help from Davis in the ninth.
Michigan’s leadoff batter hit a ball hard to the wall in right field, and Davis made an acrobatic, leaping play to bring the ball back down with him as he crashed into the wall.
Savage hit the next batter, but worked around it, striking out Voit looking to end the game and earn the save.
TCU will take on No. 14 Louisville on Saturday at 3:00 p.m. Freshman Kole Klecker (2-0) is slated to get his first start for the Frogs.
Klecker has been lights out in two relief appearances this year, striking out 11 in 8 1/3 innings pitched with no walks and just three hits allowed.
Jamie Plunkett, email@example.com