Two of the more unlikely sources of offensive production stepped up for the Frogs on Wednesday. Mason Hesse, a versatile backup infielder, and Zach Humphreys, the backup catcher, each came through in a big way at the plate.
The story of the night was an 11 run second inning that saw 15 Horned Frogs go to the plate. The huge inning was sparked by seven hits and four walks. Hesse drove in five runs in the inning, hitting both fourth and 13th in the frame. In his first trip to the plate, Hesse worked a six-pitch walk with the bases loaded that scored the first run of the game for TCU.
“[Hesse] has been that fourth infielder, a guy that can play all four spots. He’s a really good defender,” said TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle. “He’s just been nothing but a great teammate, supportive of everybody else, and appreciative of the times he gets to play. Tonight he got rewarded for it.”
Hesse’s second plate appearance of the inning came again with the bases loaded, this time with the Frogs leading 7-2. After a first pitch strike, Hesse hit a fly ball with the wind at its back over the fence in left field for a grand slam. The homer made the score 11-2 and was Hesse’s first career home run.
“That is the first grand slam I have ever hit. I don’t get to hit a lot of home runs, so it is nice to savor it,” Hesse said. “It was a good day to hit, the wind was blowing out so it was nice. We don’t usually get good hitting days at Lupton.”
Hesse’s five RBI game came in only his fourth start this season, a night after the regular starting shortstop, Ryan Merrill, homered and drove in four in a 10-2 win over UTRGV. The shortstop position, primarily hitting eighth in the Frog lineup, has not been especially productive thus far in 2017. The two homer and nine RBI mid-week series will prove to be an important stepping stone for the two senior shortstops, who are were hitting a combined .237 before Tuesday’s game.
“It is tough to sit and watch, but I knew that I would get my chance, get my opportunity. I just wanted to make the most of it and help the team win,” Hesse said. “I know what my role is, so I’ve really bought into it. Ryan Merrill is one of my best friends, so it’s awesome to see him play well.”
In between the Hesse at-bats, Humphreys had an RBI walk, Austen Wade grounded out for a run, Cam Warner’s team lead in RBIs (23) grew with a two-run double, Evan Skoug singled in a run and Nolan Brown hit a sacrifice fly.
TCU tacked on an extra run in the bottom of the third on a Josh Watson double to left center that scored Luken Baker who had walked the previous at bat.
The Frogs extended their 10 run advantage in the bottom of the fourth as Humphreys launched a two-run homer off the scoreboard in left field for his first home run of his career.
“Humphreys is a guy that is really important to our team, and he’s really important to the future of this program for sure,” Schlossnagle said. “He handles playing time, or lack thereof, just like he is supposed to. That’s why he gets rewarded.”
The three RBI night for Humphreys gave the eight and nine-hole hitters eight total on the night. Schlossnagle was happy to see some of the depth from his lineup that he expected at the start of the season
“We felt good about the depth of our offense going into the season,” Schlossnagle said. “It hasn’t really shown its face as much as we would like, but I feel like it is getting better.”
Skoug came to the plate three batters after Humphreys and hit a ball that sailed over the right field fence in a hurry for another two-run home run, pushing the advantage to 16-2.
In what ended up being their last turn at the plate in the bottom of the sixth, the Frogs added a couple more runs as Watson hit his second double of the day, scoring two runs, resulting in the game’s final score of 18-2.
The Horned Frogs fell behind early when starting pitcher Dalton Horton gave up four straight two-out baserunners in the top of the first, leading to two runs for the Vaqueros. Horton came back out for a second inning, but only recorded one out before giving way to Austin Boyles.
The Frogs used several arms out of the bullpen en route to the win, as Boyles pitched 3.2 innings, giving up just one hit and one walk while striking out a career-best six hitters. Boyles was the pitcher of record, earning his first collegiate win.
Dalton Brown made his season debut in the sixth, recording two strikeouts in a 1-2-3 inning. Brown made 10 appearances as a freshman in 2016, throwing nine innings and giving up five runs.
Ryan Burnett finished the night off with a clean seventh inning, setting down all three batters he faced and striking out one.
The victory completed a two-game sweep of UTRGV, outscoring the Vaqueros 28-4. The sweep came after the Horned Frogs opened their five-game homestand with a three-game sweep of Oklahoma State.
TCU will head to Manhattan, Kansas to begin a three-game Big 12 Conference series with Kansas State (15-10, 0-3) on Friday. First pitch for game one is set for 6:35 p.m.