Sometimes you’re forced to search for silver linings when good news is in short supply. All things considered, no disasters occurred last week, not even the prognosticated grapefruit-sized hailnado from hell that never happened. Nope. Not much to crow about for the Frogs as we saunter toward another sizzling summer.
Coach Jim Schlossnagle’s diamond Frogs started last week with a Tuesday night game against UTA in Arlington in the third and final match-up between the cross-town rivals. Earlier this season, TCU edged their neighbors in the neutral-site game at Globe Life Park and again at Lupton Stadium. No such luck last Tuesday. Purple bats managed to rack up 11 hits but stranded the majority and scored only three. The Mavericks efficiently scored six runs on as many hits and took advantage of two errors to beat the Frogs.
Two days later, purple against purple manned the bases in Manhattan, Kansas, when TCU visited last-place Kansas State. The Wildcats didn’t procrastinate and collected seven runs through the first five innings. TCU didn’t allow another run but couldn’t score their first until the seventh, and the rally caps fell short, adding only three in the top of the ninth. KSU first baseman Terrence Spurlin punished TCU, pitching with four RBIs on three hits. Spurlin jacked a two-run homer off Frog left-hander Nick Lodolo, but otherwise it was death by base hits, with the good guys struggling on the road to lose 4-7.
Friday, the Frogs were tired of their three-game skid and started accumulating hits from the get-go. A Wildcat throwing error aided in an early run for the Frogs in the first inning. TCU pitcher Charles King inspired no confidence when his first pitch of the evening never touched down after it was jettisoned over the right-field wall. The good news for Frog faithful is that no other Wildcats reached home that evening. King recovered from the lead-off homer to finish a complete game, while his Froggers provided ample run support with a six-run third inning before scoring ceased for both teams. Frogs win 8-1.
There was no telling how the third game would go on Saturday with the series tied at 1-1. Spoiler, it wasn’t stellar for purple pitching, either shade. Early innings belonged to TCU as they scored twice in the second and three times in the third en route to building a comfortable 6-1 lead ahead of a bizarre seventh inning. The Wildcats started to brew Frog miscues into a two-out charge. A walk and hit batsmen prompted a pitching change for TCU before K-State’s head coach was ejected for arguing –– often the best way to spark a fire. When Frog pitcher Jake Eissler arrived, he promptly surrendered a single on his first pitch before beaning the next batter, which rotated the loaded bases for an unearned run. A two-RBI single prompted another Frog pitching change, and two singles later, Sclossnagle called the bullpen again. The pitcher conga line brought the Wildcats to within a run of tying the Frogs. Four runs in the seventh wasn’t as bad as the five runs KSU scored in the eighth to lead 10-6 heading into the ninth. Unfazed, the Frogs led their own two-out comeback in the ninth, thanks to ballsy base running, wild pitches, and a Jake Guenther homerun. Cat bats were still hot in the bottom of the ninth, and an opening walk didn’t help. A single preceding a passed pitch left runners at second and third with only one out. A suicide-squeeze bunt resulted in an 11-10 walk-off win for K-State. The Frogs dropped to .500 in conference play with a series loss in Manhattan. With the exception of King, TCU pitching is the question mark on a team that explodes on the base pad but can easily fall apart when the bullpen is enlisted. The Frogs host Dallas Baptist on Tuesday before a home stand against second-in-conference Baylor in their next series. Lupton has been where the Frogs hop, and the Bears are fresh off two losses against Texas Tech. This series will serve as a measuring stick to evaluate how realistic a return trip to Omaha is for these Frogs.
Men’s tennis enjoyed their tour of Kansas as much as baseball did. The racquet Frogs visited KU in Lawrence for the Big 12 tournament. It was a short trip for third-seed TCU, who uncharacteristically fell apart against the Oklahoma State Cowboys, whom they beat handily just 10 days earlier. The doubles matches yielded the same result, and the unranked pairs for OSU seemed to stymie the superior-ranked Frogs. Singles disappointed mightily as third-nationally-ranked Frog Alex Rybakov lost a third-set match against an Okie he’d defeated in straight sets the previous week. Reese Stadler also faltered from third-line singles, losing in straight sets against a Cowboy he had surrendered only three total games against previously. TCU had been ranked seventh in the country. The eighth-ranked two-seed Baylor Bears surprised second-ranked Texas in the championship finals by earning the doubles point on their way to a 4-1 victory and the conference tournament title. The Bears, Horns, and Frogs wait tensely now for regional assignments to be announced in May for the NCAA championship tournament. I’m positive that conference comrades Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech will be selected to compete in the national field as they all finished the season ranked in the ITA Top 35.