Starting pitcher Jared Janczak led the Horned Frogs to a 9-4 win in a Big 12 Tournament elimination game Thursday over the Oklahoma Sooners in Oklahoma City.
“Good day for the Frogs; we’ll take it,” said head coach Jim Schlossnagle. “I thought Jared was outstanding. He set the tone for the game. We got a couple big hits in the second inning to give him something to work with, but I just thought he was outstanding and it was a progression from his start last week [against] California.”
The Frogs’ ace returned from a month-long injury seven days ago and pitched three perfect innings against Cal on 27 pitches. Despite being the TCU’s top arm, Janczak said that winning is a team effort.
“It takes all of us,” Janczak said. “I can’t do it all by myself, so it takes every single one of us; everyone in the bullpen and everyone on the field.”
In just his second start since returning to the mound, Janczak dominated a high-powered OU offense on his way to five scoreless innings. Since coming back, Janczak has not allowed a run in eight innings of work.
Janczak started his day with a nine-pitch, two strikeout first inning and never looked back. He allowed just three hits and one walk while punching out eight Sooners en route to his Big 12-best eighth win in 11 starts this season.
“We have a lot of confidence in [Janczak],” third baseman Elliott Barzilli said. “We know he is going to keep it close for us, and it takes a little pressure off of [the hitters].”
OU made a bid for its first run of the day in the top of the fourth, but a spectacular catch by Josh Watson in left robbed Austin O’Brien of a homer.
Janczak allowed two runners to reach base just once, in the fifth inning. He worked around consecutive two-out singles to finish off his outing on 77 pitches.
“He threw a few more pitches than we wanted him to throw,” Schlossnagle said. “We wanted to keep [his pitch count] closer to 70 or 65, but he said he felt good. It was a good springboard into the NCAA tournament for him. We are obviously a much better club when he is healthy and pitching for us.”
For the second straight day, the bottom half of the TCU lineup stepped up in the second inning. After scoring two runs in Wednesday’s second inning against Kansas, the Frogs jumped out to a 3-0 lead against OU Thursday. Six straight Frogs reached base, started by a single from six-hole hitter Barzilli. After a walk, Watson doubled to left center to pick up his 30th RBI and put two runners in scoring position. Another walk loaded the bases for Austen Wade, who roped a single off the OU starting pitcher Jake Irvin to score the second run of the inning.
Designated hitter Zach Humphreys picked up the third RBI of the inning on a walk, before catcher Evan Skoug grounded into a double play to end the threat.
The game stayed 3-0 until the Frogs managed to tack on an insurance run in the sixth. Two singles sandwiched around a sacrifice bunt put Cam Warner in position to score on a wild pitch to make the score 4-0.
TCU continued to add more to its lead, as a leadoff single from Wade set Skoug up for an RBI double. Skoug’s double increased his team-leading RBI total to 55 and set the Frogs up to get their sixth run on a throwing error on a ground ball hit by center fielder Nolan Brown.
After Brown picked up his conference-leading 27th stolen base, Barzilli moved to 5-8 hitting in the conference tournament with a run-scoring single to push the TCU advantage to 7-0.
“I feel like all season long I have been unfortunate a little bit,” Barzilli said. “That is why you have to take it one pitch at a time and not worry about the outcome.”
Charles King, who entered in the sixth inning, tossed three shutout innings of relief out of the bullpen. He used just 30 pitches to retire nine of the 11 batters he faced.
The Frogs added to the lead in the bottom of the eighth on a two-run single by Cam Warner, and Schlossnagle went to Austin Boyles in relief for King for the ninth inning in a 9-0 game.
Boyles struggled as he was only able to pick up one out while allowing two hits and two walks to leave the bases loaded for another reliever, Jake Eissler. Eissler came in and surrendered a two-run single before walking two straight batters to reload the bases with the score at 9-4. TCU was forced to go to its closer, Durbin Feltman, to get the final two outs of the game for a save. He used five pitches to induce a pop up and a ground out to secure the win.
Feltman’s save was his 15th of the year, tying a TCU single-season record. He is eight saves away from the TCU career record, currently held by Riley Ferrell at 32.
The win keeps TCU’s Big 12 tournament hopes alive, as they will play again Friday night at 7 p.m. against the loser of Thursday night’s game between Texas and Kansas. The Frogs are 2-2 against Kansas on the season, including a loss in the opening round of the tournament. TCU swept Texas in Fort Worth earlier in May.