The No. 6 Horned Frogs used three long balls in an 8-5 win to salvage the series against the Baylor Bears (24-16, 6-8) on Sunday, improving their conference-leading record to 11-4 (30-8 overall).
“It was really big for us,” catcher Evan Skoug said. “Any series victory is huge, but especially after the way we played yesterday, it was really nice to see us come back and bounce back and get the victory today.”
TCU jumped out to an early lead with a run in the bottom of the first. Austen Wade led off the inning with a single that extended his on base streak to 26 games. He came around to score after a single by Luken Baker and an RBI base-hit by Josh Watson.
The Frogs pushed their lead to 3-0 in the third, thanks to back-to-back solo home runs by Cam Warner and Skoug to start the inning. Warner’s fourth homer of 2017 flew out to dead-center, a rarity at Lupton Stadium which typically plays larger than it really is.
Skoug’s home run was a high, no doubt shot to right field that landed well beyond the fence. The homer was his ninth of the season which ties a career high. He hit 9 long-balls in 249 at-bats a year ago. In his freshman campaign in 2015, Skoug hit seven round trippers in 256 at-bats.
After three dominant and hit-less innings from starter Brian Howard (6-2), he gave up two runs, one of which was unearned, in the fourth. Howard gave up a leadoff hit, but came back to get the next two batters.
With two down, Howard gave up an RBI single before a pickoff throw got away from first baseman Michael Landestoy to put another runner in scoring position. A second hit scored the second run, pulling Baylor within one.
The Frogs’ bats went quiet from the fourth through the sixth, as the team tallied just 1 hit and no runs.
Howard was pulled in the top of the sixth with a runner on second and an 0-2 count on Matt Menard, who was 7-11 on the series at the time of the at bat. The Frogs most-used reliever, Sean Wymer, came on to get Menard to ground out and strand the runner at second to keep the score at 3-2.
“I think [the coaches] just wanted to change the look; that guy had seen me pretty well all day,” Howard said. “I agree with [bringing in Wymer] in hindsight. I think it was a good move, and Sean did his job unbelievably.”
Howard’s final line was 5.2 innings, allowing two runs on four hits, a walk and six strikeouts.
“I felt like I competed really well with all my pitches,” Howard said. “I threw the ball at the bottom half of the zone for the most part. I left a few pitches up there in the fourth and paid for it, but overall, I was pretty good with my stuff so I feel pretty happy with the way today went.”
Baylor made a push to tie the game in the seventh, but could not bring a leadoff double around. After a sacrifice bunt, Wymer got a foul out to first and a fly out to left-center to escape the inning.
The Frogs tacked on an insurance run in the seventh, as Wade hit the team’s third solo home run over the right field wall. Wade has seen an uptick in power in his third year as a Frog, as he had just one homer in 228 at bats in his first two seasons.
The three home run day was the fourth time the Frogs have had at least three long balls on the season. The team high this season was four homers on February 24 in a loss against Arizona State.
With some added cushion, Wymer worked around a two out single for a scoreless, ten pitch eighth inning. The third out was a hot shot to first that was snagged on a short hop by Landestoy to rob the Bears of an extra-base hit.
TCU pulled away in the eighth as they put up four runs to make it 8-2. The rally started on a one out walk by Watson. Nolan Brown followed with a single up the middle before Landestoy loaded the bases on a base hit. Ryan Merrill followed with a walk on five pitches to make the game 5-2. Elliott Barzilli then drove a ball on one hop to the left field fence for a two run double. Wade added his second RBI of the day on a sacrifice fly to put the Frogs up six.
Wymer was pulled for the ninth, but he got seven pivotal outs for the Frogs. He continues to be a reliable option out of the bullpen for TCU, as he has a 1.80 ERA in 30 innings over a team-high 17 outings.
Feltman struggled in the ninth after a poor outing and his first career blown save a week ago at West Virginia. He struck out the first Bear he faced, but proceeded to walk the next three batters on 14 pitches. In his blown save in game three of the WVU series on April 16, Feltman recorded just one out, walked three batters and hit another.
“The last two times out, he has struck the first hitter out and then kind of lost feel for it,” Schlossnagle said. “Everybody is allowed to go through a slump, but luckily we scored some runs to give us a cushion.”
Haylen Green replaced Feltman with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth and walked the first batter he faced to move the score to 8-3. He struck out the next batter for the second out before giving up a two run double to make it 8-5.
Dalton Brown was called on in a save situation with two in scoring position and two out. He got a three pitch strikeout to record his first career save and give the Frogs the 8-5 win.
“I just treated it just like any other day,” Brown said of the high-leverage situation. “It was just like the sim games we practice, and I just tried to execute fastballs and execute my sliders like I have been doing.”
TCU will play a non-conference home game on Tuesday night against Stephen F. Austin at 6:30 before a dual with the Texas Tech Red Raiders in Lubbock next weekend.