By Jamie Plunkett
Frogs Today senior writer
HOUSTON – Cole Fontenelle’s deep fly ball to right field looked for a moment as if it would get over the fence at Minute Maid Park.
Instead, it settled into Issac Humphrey’s glove for the final out of the game, as Louisville held on to beat TCU 3-2 on Saturday afternoon.
TCU was about five feet away from stealing a win, after a day where the Frogs struggle significantly at the plate.
At one point Saturday, 18 consecutive batters headed back to the dugout from the batter’s box, as Louisville starter Greg Farone presented a riddle the Frogs couldn’t solve. Coach Kirk Saarloos was impressed with Farone’s outing, but was equally unimpressed by his team’s struggles at the plate.
“[Farone] was throwing in, out, up, down with a breaking ball and, kind of like at DBU, we were in between pitches,” Saarloos said. “We were late on the fastball and not swinging at offspeed stuff in the strike zone. We helped him out, but he did a really good job. It’s becoming too much of a theme.”
That theme is a disturbing trend for the Horned Frogs, who fall to 6-4 on the season.
Saturday marked the seventh time this season the Frogs have struck out at least 10 times, and TCU as a team is striking out in 32% of their at bats this season.
One player that’s struggling is first baseman David Bishop. Bishop struck out two times on Saturday, adding to his team-high 16 this season. Saarloos opted to give Bishop a breather in the sixth inning, calling on Brody Green to take his spot at first.
“David hasn’t been seeing the baseball very well,” Saarloos said. “He’s swinging at a lot of pitches out of the strike zone. What we’re trying to do is give guys opportunities and situations to see if they’re ready for the bright lights.”
Green responded well, digging a throw from Fontenelle out of the dirt for an out, before handling a hard hit ground ball to his left without a problem. He also fielded a high pop up that got caught up in the wind, something Bishop has struggled with this season.
Kole Klecker made his first collegiate start on the mound for the Frogs, following two stellar outings in relief this season. Klecker didn’t have his best stuff, giving up nine hits and three runs (two earned) to Louisville in four innings of work.
He gave way to Chase Hoover, who pitched four shutout innings, striking out one, walking two, and allowing two hits. Saarloos was straight to the point when talking about Hoover’s performance.
“Really clutch,” Saarloos said. “Really clutch in terms of they ran Klecker up to 62 [pitches] after four, and I thought he did exactly what we needed him to do in terms of a middle game in a series and holding the tie, that we have a chance with the winning run or the tying run at the plate. I thought he grew up a little bit today in terms of the way he pitched.”
Starting shortstop Anthony Silva missed Saturday’s contest as he deals with a hamstring injury. Silva tweaked his hamstring running to second base during TCU’s 6-0 win over Michigan on Friday. Saarloos noted after the game that Silva will not play Sunday either.
Jake Payton’s two-run home run in the third inning broke the scoreless tie, putting the Cardinals up 2-0. The home run was Payton’s fourth of the season, carrying about halfway up the stands in right field.
Klecker retired the next three batters to get through the inning, but two hit balls hard and deep to Nunez in center field that he was able to track down.
Louisville added their third run in the next inning, taking advantage of an error at home plate. With two outs, and a runner on first, catcher Matt Klein hit a double to deep left-center field.
Boyers tracked the ball down and made a good throw to Taylor, who turned and fired a strike to Bowen at the plate. The ball beat the runner by several steps, but as Bowen made the tag the ball came out of his glove and rolled away, and Louisville extended their lead to 3-0.
The Cardinals threatened again in the sixth inning, loading the bases with no outs on Hoover, thanks to two infield singles and a walk. Hoover pitched his way out of it, getting a ground ball to Fontenelle, who threw home for the first out.
The next batter hit a ball up the middle, but as Taylor made a break on it he collided with Humphrey and the ball rolled into center field as a runner came around to score. However, the second base umpire immediately signaled for runner interference, and after a brief conversation with the rest of the crew, it was upheld.
Louisville coach Dan McDonnell argued the call for several minutes, but Saarloos naturally agreed with the ruling.
“Anytime you have an infielder, the runner has to avoid the infielder to let him make a play,” Saarloos said. “You don’t see it a lot but it was the right call.”
As a result, the batter was called out for the second out of the inning, and the runners had to return to their bases. Louisville’s leadoff batter, Christian Knapczyk, popped up to Fontenelle moments later to end the threat.
Bowen made up for his error several innings later, as TCU attempted to get back into the game. Cole Fontenelle led of the bottom of the eighth with a single to center field. The hit was TCU’s first since the first inning, and Fontenelle was TCU’s first base runner since the second inning.
“That’s what it looks like when you get count leverage, and you get a fastball and you don’t miss it,” Saarloos said.
The Frogs threatened again in the bottom of the ninth. With two outs, Tre Richardson singled up the middle. Green took a pitch off the foot to reach base as well, and with two outs Fontenelle gave the ball a ride but came up short.
TCU closes out the weekend with a 3:00 p.m. matchup against Rice on Sunday. Cam Brown will get the start on the mound for TCU as the Frogs look to leave Houston with two wins instead of one.
Jamie Plunkett, firstname.lastname@example.org