Last time we checked in, black skies loomed from thunderstorms and ugly TCU baseball and tennis losses. Rainbows abound as the skies cleared to uncover a shining week for Frog Nation.
Sweet 16 Cinco
Cinco de Mayo Sunday provided thirsty party seekers ample opportunity to boozy-brunch themselves into afternoon siestas –– a great way to celebrate our Racket Frogs’ fifth consecutive Sweet 16 appearance at the NCAA tennis tournament. Friday’s match against Harvard escaped the rain on the indoor courts, and first- and second-line pairs dispatched their Ivy League guests to tick the scoreboard and take the doubles point.
Singles served up additional wins with lines two, three, and five beating their crimson visitors in straight sets to finalize the match. Bertus Kruger sustained the Frogs’ lone loss playing fourth-line singles. TCU advances 4-1.
Saturday sported a rematch with Arizona State, who coach David Roditi’s court captains beat in the first match of the season during the Tempe Collegiate Cup and again 4-3 in a dual match shortly before conference matches began. The third-line doubles pair of Luc Fomba and Sandler Jong rescued TCU by out-rallying their Sun Devil opponents to win their match 7-5 and decide the doubles point. Fomba and Jong rode their momentum to win their singles matches along with Rybakov in straight sets to secure the second 4-1 win of the weekend.
Reese Stadler and his partner Kruger struggled as a pair and individually. Stadler suffered the only singles loss to an ASU racketeer, and Kruger trailed a set and was two games from a loss when the match ended. The fate of the Frogs will rest with Stadler and Kruger, who are the 22nd-ranked doubles team in the land but have stagnated recently as a duo as well as from line three and four singles spots.
Roditi’s squad travels to the land of Confederate flags on Saturday for a rematch with seven-seed Mississippi State. The Bulldogs fell to the Frogs 4-1 in the first round of the ITA National Team Indoor Championship early in the season, aided by their superior lower-line singles. Starkville senior Nuno Borges had Rybakov on the ropes in their match that ended unfinished. Roditi needs his lower-singles to encore their early-season performance against State for the Frogs to dispatch the top-heavy Bulldogs and advance to the Elite Eight to face the winner of Cal vs. Texas.
That’s the Way
Uh-huh uh-huh, I like it, uh-huh uh-huh. TCU baseball banished their five-game losing skid by victimizing Abilene Christian last Tuesday. The Frogs hopped on the scoreboard early and led 2-1 before piling up nine runs between the seventh and ninth innings. The Wildcats frightened the Frogs in the bottom of the eighth with five runs but couldn’t match the 11 runs on 16 hits from the Frogs as TCU claimed an 11-6 victory.
The West Virginia Mountaineers are the conference surprise of the season and were sitting in third place before the revitalized purple people eaters arrived. Friday night’s game started as the last conference series finished, with the Frogs trailing early. Mountaineer batting bashed purple pitcher Nick Lodolo in the first for a double, single, and then homer to plant the good guys in a three-run hole. The stud right-hander never flinched, and he recovered to hold WVU scoreless through the sixth inning, when TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle comfortably called the bullpen and let him rest after Horned batters notched a homerun and six base hits to complement two hit batsmen and walks en route to a 10-run seventh inning. The Frogs buried the Mountaineers 14-5 in an offensive avalanche for their first conference win in five games.
Frog pitcher Charles King, who might suffer Baylor PTSD, returned to the mound on Saturday to recover his control and confidence. King ruled the game by striking out eight batters and allowing zero earned runs and only four hits in his second complete game of the last three weeks. Run support shined as his teammates scored six on 11 hits while committing only one error.
Frog fielding improved their error-filled ways in West Virginia but slipped up twice on Sunday to prevent the Frogs from returning to Fort Worth with the sweep. Starting pitcher Brandon Williamson tossed six solid innings, allowing three runs on five hits before a trio of relievers arrived. TCU held a 5-3 lead into the final inning. A throwing error on a routine grounder allowed the tying Mountaineer to reach base before WVU outfielder Darius Hill jacked a two-run walk-off homer to end the game and any Frog chances for a sweep. Both of Sunday’s throwing errors led to unearned runs and proved the difference in a 6-5 Mountaineer victory.
Schloss has successfully reanimated the listless Frogs with two conference series remaining to fight for an invitation to a regional. This weekend, our boys host Kansas at Lupton Stadium. The Jayhawks are log-jammed in a fifth-place tie with TCU and Oklahoma, while Baylor is leading Tech by one game in their battle for first place. A fourth series win is essential to pad the Frogs’ Big 12 resume before braving the dusty diamonds of Lubbock to finish the season.