By Jamie Plunkett
Frogs Today senior writer
HOUSTON – TCU closed their weekend at the Shriners College Classic with a 7-0 win over Rice on Sunday, their second shutout in three days.
Seven shutout innings from Cam Brown (1-0) and home runs from Luke Boyers and Tre Richardson led the way, as the Frogs overpowered the Owls on the mound and at the plate.
Boyers broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the second inning, hitting a 2-2 fastball off the Crawford Boxes signs in left field at Minute Maid Park.
Boyers, who has struggled at the plate since opening weekend, also worked two walks and struck out on the day. His home run on Sunday was just his third hit since starting the season 3-6 at Globe Life Field.
“I felt good today,” Boyers said. “I”m just trying to keep an approach. I came into today just trying to maintain my confidence even when things aren’t going the way I’d like them to. I’m seeing a lot of pitches, which I feel good about, and I ended up getting ahold of one today.”
Richardson’s third inning home run was to opposite field – a line drive that just cleared the fence. The hit boosted Richardson’s slugging percentage to .525, second highest on the team.
Meanwhile, Brown used a devastating slider and his patented 95-plus fastball to overwhelm Rice batters. Brown’s seven innings pitched and eight strikeouts were both the second most in a single game for his career.
Brown also walked three batters, but showed better control than he did to open the season. His past two Sunday starts have shown the kind of pitcher he can be, should be become more consistent. Coach Kirk Saarloos liked what he saw from the junior righty.
“I thought he did a really good job of pitching and throwing secondary stuff in some counts,” Saarloos said. “I thought his changeup in the last inning was really nice. That’s something we’ve been working on a ton, and when he catches it right it’s a really good pitch. It’s just a matter of him being comfortable with it. He gave us seven strong, and you can’t ask much more for somebody on a Sunday to do that.”
Brown managed to overcome a first inning that saw him give up two hits and take a line drive off his leg, which Saarloos said he kept stretching out for the rest of the game. It didn’t affect him on the mound, though, as he allowed just four base runners in his final six innings of work before handing the ball to Louis Rodriguez to close things out.
The changeup Brown and Saarloos worked on this offseason was effective during his third time through Rice’s lineup, as he retired six of the last seven batters he faced with three strikeouts. He’s gaining confidence with it, and if he masters it that could be the key to unlocking the next level for him.
“A couple of changeups in my last inning is just another wrinkle that they’re going to have to deal with,” Brown said. “As I continue to gain feel for that pitch, the fastball and the slider, when I start doing all of that in the first inning they’re going to be in shambles and it’s going to start getting really fun.”
TCU’s lineup looked a bit different on Sunday, just one day after Saarloos mentioned getting different players in the lineup to try and jump start the hitting.
Brody Green and Fisher Ingersoll got the nod over David Bishop and Kurtis Byrne to start the game, and Green performed well both at the plate and in the field.
Green’s one-out double to left field in the eighth inning really broke the game open, as Karson Bowen and Cole Fontenelle both came around to score. Green finished the day 2-for-4.
He also made a nice defensive play following an error, that kept a run off the board for Rice. After misfielding a hard hit ground ball, Green recovered and gained control to throw out a runner trying to score from second base.
At that time, Green’s play kept it a 4-0 ballgame.
“He didn’t field the ball cleanly, but he didn’t hang his head,” Saarloos said. “He got directly to the baseball for the next play, which kept them off the scoreboard. Two outs, ball gets away from him you know for sure that coach [Paul] Janish at third was going to wheel him. So, he came up, threw a strike to the plate, and Karson held on to the ball this time.”
While the Frogs kept Rice off the board and put up runs, Rodriguez followed Brown on the mound and finished the shutout.
After allowing a leadoff double and walk to start the eighth inning, Rodriguez retired the next three batters on just six pitches. An 11 pitch ninth inning slammed the door on the Owls, moving the Frogs to 7-4 on the season.
TCU hosts UT Arlington on Tuesday at Lupton Stadium. The Frogs defeated the Mavericks 7-3 back on February 22nd. Braeden Sloan is expected to get the start for the Frogs.
Following Tuesday’s rematch with UTA, the Frogs will host San Diego at Lupton Stadium for a three game series next weekend.
Jamie Plunkett, firstname.lastname@example.org