Down 5-3 headed to the bottom of the eighth, the Frogs were in familiar territory. Coming into Friday’s game, the Frogs had trailed in 14 of 19 outings, compiling a 9-5 record in those games.
Luken Baker led off the Frogs’ half of the eighth with his team-leading fifth homerun, pulling the Frogs within one. The homer was his first since March 3 against LSU in Houston, and it erased a 0-14 slump at the plate. Baker did not have a hit since game three against UC-Irivine, 12 days ago.
Josh Watson followed Baker and was retired for the first out on one pitch. Nolan Brown stepped in the box next and hit a no-doubt line drive well over the right field fence, tying the game at five. Brown’s round-tripper was his second of the year and the team’s third of the night, marking the fifth multi-homer game this season for the Frogs.
“[The homerun] helped a lot. It helped the team and it helped my confidence a lot,” Brown said. “Early on in the game I was missing fastballs a lot, so it helped a lot for my confidence of getting that off my chest.”
Elliott Barzilli came up with the game knotted at five and grounded out for the second out of the eighth. Ryan Merrill followed Barzilli with a strikeout, but reached on a costly third-strike passed ball.
With new life in the inning and a runner on first with two outs, Michael Landestoy pinch-hit for Connor Wanhanen and drew a walk. Austen Wade then batted with two runners on and smashed the first pitch to the left field wall for a two-run double. The double gave the Frogs the 7-5 lead and was the fourth time Wade reached base in five plate appearances.
“We stayed close enough and got some big hits,” said TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle. “The homeruns and then obviously Austen Wade staying on that ball and hitting it the other way was incredible and got us two runs, not just one, which proved to be really big in the ninth inning.”
Durbin Feltman entered for the Frogs in the top of the ninth, looking for his fifth save. He allowed the tying run to reach base thanks to a one-out single and a two-out hit batter, but got OSU’s homerun and RBI leader, Garrett Benge, to groundout to shortstop to secure the win.
Winning game one sets the tone for what proves to be a pivotal Big 12 conference series for the Frogs against a team that has traditionally given them problems.
“They’ve had our number for so many years in terms of winning series,” Schlossnagle said. “We certainly still haven’t done that, but it is nice to get this one especially when you are behind.”
Frogs’ ace Jared Janczak got the start on the mound, entering the game with a perfect 5-0 record in five starts and a 2.36 ERA.
The first two Cowboys singled off Janczak to begin the game on Friday, quite the contrast from his outing last weekend against Kansas, when it took the Jayhawks until the eighth inning to get a single baserunner.
Benge came to the plate with runners on the corners in the opening frame and chopped a run-scoring groundout to Wanhanen near the first base bag. Benge recorded his 28th RBI and put TCU behind in the first inning for the 1oth time.
After the two hits to open the night, Janczak settled in and retired the next nine Cowboys.
Janczak’s counterpart, Cowboys’ starter Tyler Buffett, stranded five Frogs in scoring position in the first three innings alone as OSU continued to cling to the one run advantage.
The Cowboys extended their lead on an unearned run off of Janczak in the fourth. A leadoff walk followed by a single and a throwing error on catcher Evan Skoug put OSU ahead 2-0. The lead held steady at two until the Frogs turn at bat in the fifth.
Skoug redeemed himself with a sky-high three run homerun to right field that gave the Frogs their first lead of the night. Skoug’s homer came with one out and runners on the corners after singles by Wanhanen and Wade. The bomb was a welcome sight for the Horned Frogs and Skoug, who had struck out in 35 of 72 at-bats on the season and sported an average that had dipped below the .200 mark.
“I hit a lot off the breaking ball machine this week, and it was nice to see the work pay off,” Skoug said. “My hit and then the guys’ hits down the stretch are just going to start catapulting us to be the offensive club that we know we can be.”
The 3-2 lead was short-lived though, as OSU came back to tie it in the sixth. The first two Cowboys reached base, chasing Janczak from the game.
Sean Wymer entered and let one of his two inherited runners to score, but an outfield assist by Wade, a strikeout, and groundout sent the game to the bottom of the sixth.
The Frogs went in order in the sixth and seventh innings, sandwiching a 1-2-3 inning by the Cowboys in their half of the seventh.
In the eighth inning, Wymer trotted to the mound for his third inning of work. After an 11 pitch pop-up to begin the inning, Wymer ran into trouble. Benge singled up the middle to get the rally started. Wymer then got another pop up in the infield for the second out.
With two outs and just one runner on, a single followed by a passed ball put runners on second and third. A third single scored both runs, giving the Cowboys the 5-3 lead.
Haylen Green replaced Wymer and got a three-pitch strikeout to end the eighth. Green ended up as the pitcher of record, picking up his first win of his career.
TCU will be back on the field against OSU on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Lupton Stadium for game two of the three game series. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN 2. Nick Lodolo (2-1, 5.06 ERA) will be on the bump for the Frogs.