The Horned Frogs opened up Big 12 conference play with a 4-2 victory over Kansas State Friday evening. The win pushes their record in conference openers to 14-1 under TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle.
“Kansas State played us well all game,” first baseman Luken Baker said. “Getting these young guys to experience what it’s like to play in the Big 12 is neat and coming out with the win is even better.”
The Horned Frogs opened up the scoring in the second inning with an opposite-field two-out bomb from third baseman Conner Shepherd. The shot was the second home run this season for the redshirt sophomore and the second of his career as well as a piece of his first-ever multi-hit game.
The Wildcats threatened and capitalized in the fourth inning as TCU starter Jared Janczak began to fade. After the righty surrendered two walks against Kansas State’s first three batters, catcher T.K. McWhertor hit a double into right field that skimmed Connor Wanhanen’s glove and scored Hanz Harker from second base.
Kansas State took the lead two pitches later as second baseman Brett Owen grounded out to Horned Frog shortstop Adam Oviedo, scoring Rainer Ausmus from third base to take a one-run lead.
Junior Drew Mount singled for Kansas State in the fifth inning as the Wildcats continued to put pressure on the Horned Frogs. After Mount stole second, Janczak responded with three consecutive strikeouts to retire the side and strand Mount at second base.
First-year pitcher Augie Mihlbauer came in for Janczak in relief in the sixth inning and kept the Frogs within striking distance, striking out four Kansas State batters in two and a third innings pitched and sparking a rally for the Frogs.
“In the last four weeks he’s been super special,” Schlossnagle said. “He got some confidence and started throwing some good balls and he started believing himself. He challenges hitters because they’re going to get some tough stuff to hit.”
Schlossnagle said Janczak’s ability to pitch around lead-off hits kept the Frogs in the ballgame.
Mihlbauer recorded his first career win Friday.
After sophomore catcher Zach Humphreys was hit by a pitch to lead off the eighth inning, junior first baseman Luken Baker launched a tw0-run home run over the left field wall.
“When the game comes calling, he always finds a way to deliver,” Schlossnagle said.
Junior left fielder Josh Watson was walked on the next play and advanced to third on a groundout and a passed ball. Watson scored on a fielding error by K-State second baseman Brett Owen.
The Horned Frogs kept the lead as junior pitcher Durbin Feltman scorched the Wildcats lineup in the ninth inning, striking out the side to seal the victory.
Saturday: Bats come alive as TCU baseball rolls past K-State
TCU’s 12-2 victory over Kansas State Saturday was headlined by its explosive offense.
The showcase took shape after catcher Zach Humphreys scored when designated hitter Michael Landestoy smashed his first home run of the year, scoring two runs and extending the team’s lead to 4-1. Centerfielder A.J. Balta followed Landestoy with a solo home run of his own, the third time this season the Horned Frogs have hit back-to-back home runs.
Third baseman Conner Shepherd stepped up two batters later and hit TCU’s third home run of the inning, a solo shot that pushed the lead to 6-1. Shepherd also hit a home run in Friday night’s contest, bringing his total to four on the season.
“We’re just getting better pitches to hit and capitalizing on the pitches we are swinging at,” Shepherd said.
Baker hit his seventh home run of the year in the bottom of the seventh inning Saturday. The junior’s solo shot gave TCU a 7-2 lead.
The team entered the weekend with nine home runs in its first 18 games. They’ve now hit six in their first two games against the Wildcats.
“We’re a better offense,” Schlossnagle said. “We have better hitters then we’ve shown.”
Baker’s leadoff home run in the seventh would ignite the team’s offense again, as they would go on to have a six-run inning. Singles by Landestoy and first-year shortstop Adam Oviedo followed by a Shepherd walk that would load the bases for pinch hitter Tristan Hanoian. Hanoian was hit by a pitch, giving Landestoy a free path home and pushing the lead to 8-2.
Connor Wanhanen drew a walk, scoring Balta and giving the team a seven-run lead. Humphreys would then clear the bases on a three-run double to center field.
“It’s important that we play sound baseball regardless of the score,” Schlossnagle said of the team staying locked in after taking a 6-1 lead in the third inning.
On the mound, starting pitcher Nick Lodolo got his fourth win in six starts this season. The sophomore gave up seven hits in seven innings but allowed just two earned runs.
“I thought Lodolo was good,” Schlossnagle said. “Their left-handed hitters are really good and he’s really good against left-handed hitters, so I thought he neutralized them a little bit.”
Kansas State was 2-12 with runners on base and 1-7 with runners in scoring position. Lodolo is now 4-1 on the season with a 3.77 ERA.
Caleb Sloan and James Notary each pitched hitless innings to close out the game for the Horned Frogs. Notary’s two strikeouts brought his total to 15 in nine innings pitched this year.
Sunday: No. 15 baseball sweeps K-State
An outstanding performance on the mound by a veteran pitcher made it impossible for the Wildcats to score a run Sunday afternoon at Lupton Stadium.
Junior right-hander Sean Wymer tied his career-high with his ninth strikeout when he pitched around a lead-off single in the sixth inning.
“I had a good three-pitch mix working, so I mean it was really just locating pitches when I needed that helped me be successful. The defense behind me, too, made great plays to start the game,” Wymer said.
The offense started in the first inning as senior right fielder Connor Wanhanen earned a walk. Sophomore catcher Zach Humphreys reached second base on an error, and Wanhanen scored off a Luken Baker hit that left Humphreys safe at third. Humphreys then scored off senior Michael Landestoy’s walk. Left fielder Josh Watson also scored on AJ Balta’s hit into right field.
“We definitely didn’t have the season we wanted to start, so it was good for everyone here to get that sweep under our belts,” Wymer said.
The Horned Frogs earned another trio of runs in the seventh inning. First-year shortstop Adam Oviedo opened with a base hit and moved to second on a bunt single from third baseman Conner Shepherd. A one-out walk to Wanhanen loaded the bases. Humphreys cleared the bases with a double down the left field line for a 6-0 lead.
“Coach always talks about how sweeps win championships,” Humphreys said.
The veteran guided the defense as well as the pitchers that came on to the mound after Wymer and served as motivation to stay positive.
“A lot of the freshman, a lot of the new guys asking questions and it’s just telling them your experiences is how you handle it,” Humphreys said. “If it’s constructive criticism, take the good things from it and let the bad parts go.”
The victory gives TCU a 14-7 record on the year and a 3-0 record in conference play. The Horned Frogs will continue their eight-game homestand Tuesday night when they host Dallas Baptist at 6:30 p.m.