By Jamie Plunkett
Frogs Today staff writer
FORT WORTH — David Bishop turned and had words for the home-plate umpire. The strike he had been called out on ended the game, and based on Bishop’s reaction, along with the TCU fans at Lupton Stadium, they couldn’t have disagreed more with Mark Winters.
The Horned Frogs were trailing by one in the bottom of the ninth, when they loaded the bases with two outs for Bishop. Bishop worked his way to a full count before the final strike passed him by.
West Virginia won 3-2, but there was much more to it than just the final out.
Like a go-ahead steal of home.
TCU took the lead in the first. Bishop laced a two-out double into the left-center gap that reached the wall. One pitch later, Gray Rodgers singled to right to bring Bishop in for a 1-0 lead.
Tommy Sacco then doubled to the wall in right-center, but Rodgers was thrown out at home to end the inning.
The Frogs and Mountaineers quickly fell into a pitcher’s duel, with Riley Cornelio and Jacob Watters going toe to toe through six innings. Cornelio struck out eight, a career-high for the sophomore right-hander, with his fastball reaching as high as 97 mph. Watters also struck out eight, with his fastball touching 99 mph.
Both starters combined to allow just six hits and two earned runs.
In the top of the sixth, Austin Davis reached for West Virginia and promptly stole second base, then third. A wild pitch from Cornelio allowed Davis to come home and tie the game.
West Virginia threatened to take the lead in the seventh inning after a sacrifice bunt put runners on second and third with one out. Pinch hitter Tyler Cox hit a bouncing ball back at Savage, who immediately threw it home. Kurtis Byrne applied the tag for the second out, a call that was upheld after a brief review from the umpires.
Savage got out of the jam with a soft ground ball to Rodgers, who made the throw to Bishop for the final out.
TCU responded to the clutch play from Savage by reclaiming the lead in their half of the inning. With two outs and Byrne on second base, West Virginia made the call to intentionally walk Brayden Taylor, electing for the righty-on-righty matchup with Bishop.
All the freshman first baseman had to do was stand there. A wild pitch moved Byrne and Taylor to third and second. The next pitch went between the catcher’s legs all the way to the backstop for a passed ball, and Byrne sprinted home to give the Frogs the lead, 2-1.
Savage returned in the eighth inning and provided a shutdown inning, striking out two.
West Virginia took the lead in the ninth thanks to their seventh stolen base of the game.
With runners on second and third, two outs and a 2-2 count on the hitter, Ben Abernathy took off for home plate. TCU closer River Ridings stepped off the rubber and threw home, where Byrne applied the tag. TCU fans had a split second to rejoice before the ball flew out of Byrne’s glove to the backstop.
Braden Barry, who hadn’t slowed down rounding third, saw the ball get away from Byrne and continued on home to put West Virginia ahead 3-2.
TCU falls to 18-8 on the season and 5-2 in Big 12 play, and is now on a three-game losing streak. They take on West Virginia again Saturday at 2 p.m.
Here’s Kirk Saarloos after the game: