By Jamie Plunkett
Frogs Today senior writer
FORT WORTH – Strong pitching and Brayden Taylor’s third home run of the year helped TCU even the series with San Diego on Saturday afternoon.
Kole Klecker (3-1) had his best outing of the season, carrying a no-hitter into the sixth inning. The freshman righty only allowed one earned run on two hits, while striking out two over seven innings pitched. He executed pitches well, throwing mostly fastballs, keeping San Diego off balance and inducing a significant amount of weak contact. Kirk Saarloos was pleased with the outing, considering TCU’s 14-2 loss to the Toreros just one day ago.
“I thought he had great composure and just filled up the strike zone and moved the fastball in and out and up,” Saarloos said. “And that’s exactly what we needed from a starting pitcher today.”
Klecker threw 54 of his 92 pitches for strikes, inducing nine ground outs and weak fly balls, as he kept San Diego off balance throughout the game.
“I always go out there wanting to throw strikes,” Klecker said. “And I think I did that. Executed pitches, kind of kept them off the ball, tried to get weak contact that and gave my team a chance to win.”
Anthony Silva returned to action for the Frogs after missing the last three outings with a hamstring injury. He went 0-for-3 at the plate and had an error in the field, but Saarloos continues to be impressed by the freshman for how he’s handling the adversity.
“He’s in the grease, you know what I mean,” Saarloos said. “He’s in the fire. He struck out with the bases loaded, which I know he didn’t want to do and, made a mistake defensively, which I know he didn’t want to do. But the more that you’d be put guys in those positions, you know, you can’t hide when you’re the shortstop. Part of that maturing process is going through some things that you can file away in your archive to be better the next time it happens. So he’s been good for us so far. And we just feel like he’s gonna continue to get better and we’re gonna continue to run him out there.”
Taylor’s first inning home run put TCU ahead 1-0. Taylor took an easy swing on a pitch on the outer half of the plate, and let the wind do the rest as the ball fell beyond the left field fence.
The home run was just Taylor’s second hit since the weekend series against Florida State. Taylor finished the day 2-for-4 from the plate, and his relief was evident after the game.
“I felt really good,” Taylor said. “I just felt real comfortable today. Just going back to my mechanics, going back to my routine, just slowing the game down. So it was it was good. Just trusting that process.”
TCU extended their lead in the third inning thanks to a two-out single by Elijah Nunez, which scored Luke Boyers from second base.
Klecker carried a perfect game into the fifth inning, where he recorded the first two outs before hitting Andrew Semo with a pitch to give the Toreros their first base runner of the game. A balk moved Semo to second base, but Klecker got a soft ground ball to Silva at shortstop to end the inning and strand the runner.
Klecker’s no hitter ended the following inning with a two-out single to right field. Austin Davis made a heady play, throwing out the lead runner as he rounded second base to end the inning and keep San Diego off the board.
The Toreros finally pushed one across in the seventh, thanks to a solo home run off the bat of Kevin Sim that landed in TCU’s bullpen.
TCU loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, as they tried to provide some insurance for Klecker on the mound. Ryan Robinson got the Toreros out of the jam though, using an impressive slider to strike out Silva looking.
Louis Rodriguez entered the game in relief of Klecker in the eighth inning, and retired the side in order, striking out one and getting two ground balls to Taylor at third base.
The Frogs threatened again in the eighth inning, using singles from Nunez and Taylor to put runners on the corners with one out. A Byrne pop up became the second out of the inning, before Tre Richardson’s third hit of the day brought Nunez home to score and extend TCU’s lead to 3-1.
The RBI was Richardson’s team-leading 12th of the season, as he continues to give the Frogs good at bats.
“He did a really good job, first of all, the bat before that, when it was a guy on second base, and he’s fighting like crazy with two strikes to get him over to third,” Saarloos said. “And he just puts the bat on the ball and gets up the middle and gets gets the guy to third base…[then] he did just enough to hit it in the five hole and get us a run and extend the lead.”
TCU’s 21st error of the season gave San Diego life in the ninth, with two runners on and one out. Rodriguez slammed the door, though, striking out the final two Torero batters to even the series at one apiece. For Rodriguez it was his first career save.
TCU and San Diego finish the series tomorrow (Sunday) at 1:00 p.m. Cam Brown will be on the mound for TCU, while Ryan Kysar is expected to make his first appearance of the season for the Toreros.
Jamie Plunkett, email@example.com