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Sander Jong remained unflappable, winning his third singles match this season against Baylor during their Big 12 tournament meeting. Courtesy TCU Athletics

Many weren’t aware, but a brawl occurred in Waco over the weekend. The most polite of scraps, as tennis is a gentle sport compared to most, but the match between the Frogs and Bears held all the drama of an overtime football game or final-round boxing match. Last week, I trumpeted my disappointment as David Roditi’s men of tennis were forced to split the regular-season title thanks to a lackluster 2-5 performance when hosting Baylor during their final match of the season. As an avid purple tennis booster, this caused much consternation when considering TCU’s progression into the national tournament. Despite my natural distaste for anything green or gold, the Bears team proves a valid measuring stick for the Frogs’ ability to advance to the Elite 8 or further.

 

The Bears, currently ranked third in the nation and holding the second seed in the Big 12 tournament, weren’t forced to play an opening match in this weekend’s bracket. The three-seed Frogs bounced back from their loss by blasting Oklahoma 4-0 on Saturday to earn a redemption match with the Baptists on semifinal Sunday. Roditi’s Frogs hopped out with an enticing surprise by capturing the doubles point, a feat that’s eluded them in both previous meetings with the Bears. Even the second-line-unranked pair of Sander Jong and Tomas Jirousek were leading when their match was deemed superfluous and left unfinished.

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It wasn’t long into the singles matches when the home team evened the score one-all with a straight-set victory at line four, followed quickly by another win at line five for an overall Baylor lead. Frog frontman Alastair Gray, who played a miserable match at line two last week, seemed to have recentered himself but still lost two consecutive 4-6 sets to put the Bears on the precipice of another dominant win.

 

It was then the purple men charged back. Roditi, obviously wanting to avoid a repeat dismantling at line two, dropped Luc Fomba down in the lineup to face eighth-ranked Matias Soto, a move that proved masterful as the Frenchfrog bested him in straight sets to draw the overall team score within a point. Sander Jong, the Kiwitoad who just keeps improving, remained undefeated at line three against the Bears. Steady Sander finalized his third three-set match of the season against Baylor to even the team score at three-all.

 

All eyes then darted to a split-set match on court six as Tadeas Paroulek — also playing a spot down from a week ago — faced Baylor senior Spencer Furman. Furman won a convincing first set before Paroulek flipped the result in the second before falling behind two games versus five in the third. Furman fought his way to two-consecutive match points, but the freshman Frog from the Czech Republic refused to be denied, winning that game and then two others to logjam the set at five-all. Unfortunately, it seemed all Paroulek’s energy was expended knotting the score as the veteran Bear captured the next two games to conclude the match and dash Frog hopes of advancing to the tournament finals.

 

It’s worth pointing out that the Bears moved on to draw and quarter the one-seed Longhorns in the tournament finals on Monday, winning 4-0. Considering that TCU beat UT during indoor and outdoor seasons, you can objectively consider them the second-best team among a highly competitive Big 12 slate. Selection for the national tournament is scheduled for Monday, and four Lone Star Squads — UT, Baylor, TCU, and Texas A&M — are ranked in the Top 10, with Baylor and UT both currently Top 5.

 

Transitioning from hard courts to grass and dirt, TCU baseball logged yet another Big 12 series win over the weekend by beating Kansas in impressive fashion both Friday and Saturday night. Friday’s stat sheet is somewhat dizzying as the 15-1 victory included substantial subbing and spreading the absurd quantity of plate appearances among the second string. Frog bats were presumably tired after accumulating 18 hits and 14 RBI. Senior catcher Zach Humphreys (#10) was a triple short of hitting for the cycle and missed the base pad only once in five appearances. Junior right fielder Phillip Sikes (#11) bashed a double and two home runs on his way to four RBI and recognition as one of three Big 12 players of the week.

 

It’s silly to consider that Saturday’s 10-run effort wasn’t impressive based on the previous game, but the offense accumulated steadily starting in the second inning when the purple people brought home two runs, two more in the third, and then at least one in every subsequent inning until the final tally left the Frogs with a series victory and a 10-3 win over the Hawks.

 

With KU sitting last in the conference and 25 combined runs over two games, the Toad offense seemed hungover on Sunday from their weekend shenanigans and suffered an uncharacteristic slump. Humphreys — who was a factor all weekend, accumulating nine hits during the series — brought in the lone RBI in the final game to grant TCU a 1-0 lead in the third, which they promptly relinquished in the fourth. No other scoring occurred and coach Jim Schlossnagle’s boys suffered their first home conference loss of the season 1-2.

 

The Longhorns — who are still tied with TCU atop the conference standings — mirrored them during their weekend, winning a close double header at Oklahoma State on Saturday before dropping their Sunday outing.

 

TCU flies to West Virginia for their series with the Mountaineers this weekend. The couch burners are sitting in the bottom third of the standings and have one series win, against KU. That considered, WVU’s home record is substantially better than their road history, and despite many series losses thus far, no team has been able to sweep them. This weekend provides a golden opportunity for the Frogs to take the lead in the conference as UT hosts the Red Raiders, who despite trailing the Frogs and Longhorns four games in the standings, are still the highest-ranked Big 12 team in the national polls.

 

 

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