By Jamie Plunkett
Frogs Today staff writer
DALLAS – TCU snapped a five game losing streak to Dallas Baptist on Tuesday night, winning 4-1.
With the win, the Frogs also handed the Patriots their first loss of the season. The game, which took place at Horner Ballpark in front of 1,737 fans – the fifth largest regular season crowd in DBU history – went 12 innings and lasted three hours and thirty six minutes.
It was an impressive battle between two quality programs, something coach Kirk Saarloos recognized afterward.
“It’s a great college baseball game from the pitching side of it,” Saarloos said. “Obviously they ran out a lot of really good arms, but we got it done. Tre [Richardson] obviously coming up big, not making the throw on that double play…then he comes up and gets the two RBI base hit.”
Richardson drove in two insurance runs in the top of the 12th inning, taking a 2-1 pitch back up the middle to drive home Anthony Silva and Austin Davis. TCU’s second baseman is now second on the team with a 1.011 OPS through the first eight games of the season, with nine runs scored and six RBIs, following his 3-6 night at the plate.
While Richardson hasn’t played in this cross-town rivalry of sorts before, he did have experience against DBU while at Baylor. The Bears fell twice to the Patriots in the past three seasons.
“Hearing that the Frogs haven’t had much success against DBU over the past four years, and personally, being where I was, I didn’t have too much success against DBU either,” Richardson said. “It was like a combined ‘let’s just get it done.'”
Three freshmen arms combined for 11 innings of one run baseball, holding down a Patriots lineup that had wreaked havoc on opponents to open the season.
Braeden Sloan made his second start of the season, pitching five strong innings of one-run baseball. Sloan struck out two, walked two, and allowed just one hit, retiring seven consecutive batters after DBU scored their only run in the second inning.
Sloan was followed by Louis Rodriguez, who worked 4 2/3 innings with four strikeouts, once again using his slider as his out pitch. Rodriguez has allowed just four hits in 7 1/3 innings pitched this season, with eight strikeouts and no walks.
He was relieved in the 10th inning by Ben Abeldt, who was back to his effective ways following a tough outing on Saturday against Florida State. Abeldt struck out two and walked two, pitching into the 12th inning.
Sophomore Cohen Feser closed things out, earning his first career save. Feser struck out the first batter he faced, before getting a ground out to Brayden Taylor to shut the door on DBU.
All four pitchers impressed Saarloos on Tuesday night.
“I thought [Sloan] was way better than he was last time,” Saarloos said. “And then Louis, who was awesome. And then you run another freshman out there in Abeldt. And then you finish it off with Cohen Feser, a guy that didn’t get a ton of innings last year. I think it says a lot to what this team can be as a pitching staff. [DBU is] an awesome offense, in a very offensive yard, and to keep them to one run and only three hits, pitching won the day today and then we just got enough at the end.”
Tuesday night also saw the return of Elijah Nunez, who missed the previous four games while in concussion protocol. Nunez was quiet in his return, going 0-5 from the plate, but he made several good plays in centerfield. His return also pushed several Frogs back into their normal spots in the lineup, which had changed in four straight games in his absence.
TCU threatened to score in the second inning, following a double into the left-center field gap by Tre Richardson. Kurtis Byrne, who had singled the at bat before, tried to score from first but was thrown out at home plate. Saarloos asked for a review of the play, but the call was upheld.
Meanwhile, in DBU’s half of the inning, more TCU errors helped the Patriots take a lead. With one out and runners on the corners, Sloan induced a ground ball to third base. Taylor made the throw to second, but Richardson’s double play throw to first was a little high, and it glanced off David Bishop’s glove to extend the inning.
A run came home to score, giving DBU the 1-0 lead.
TCU tied things up in the top of the fifth inning. A one out double from Bowen notched TCU’s third hit of the night and first since the second inning. A single from Silva moved Bowen to third, and the freshman catcher came home to score on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Davis.
The Frogs managed to break through in the 12th inning. Bowen led off with his second double of the night, and scored moments later. Silva pushed a bunt down the first base line, and DBU’s pitcher, Zane Russell, slipped and fell as he tried to field it. Russell managed to get a throw off to first base, but it bounced away and rolled to the wall.
Bowen came around to score, giving TCU the 2-1 lead, while Silva advanced to second base. Four pitches later, Davis stood on first base having worked his fourth walk of the night.
That ended Russell’s night, as Patriot’s coach Dan Heefner went to the bullpen for the sixth time of the evening. Every pitcher Heefner brought out of the bullpen had a plus fastball in the mid-90s, with excellent secondary pitches, and for the most part they had TCU off balance all evening.
The Frogs struck out 18 times, the most in a single game since April 29th of last season, when TCU struck out 19 times against Florida State.
“Well I think a lot of it was, they had good stuff,” Saarloos said. “They got in a rhythm. Their pitching coach did and their pitchers did. You don’t want to give outs away in terms of striking out and them not having to do anything defensively, but at the end of the day it’s a win. And you’d rather win striking out a bunch than lose striking out a bunch.”
DBU’s final pitcher of the night, Matt Bollenbacher, couldn’t get out of the jam, conceding a single to Richardson to push two more runs home and give TCU a 4-1 lead.
The Frogs now sit at 5-3 on the season, having faced one of the toughest opening slates of anyone in the country. TCU’s opponents faced are a combined 32-15 this season.
TCU heads to Houston this weekend to participate in the Shriners Children’s College Classic, where they’ll face Michigan, Louisville, and Rice beginning on Friday. Texas Tech and Texas A&M are also participating in the tournament, but will not face the Frogs.
“It’s another big league ballpark they get to play in, I think that’s really cool,” Saarloos said. “And then you get three great, storied programs in terms of college baseball that you get to play against. Kind of our first true road trip in terms of getting on a bus and driving down four hours and staying in a hotel, so that will be new. Kind of another box to check off for this team.”
Jamie Plunkett, firstname.lastname@example.org