Baseball scores early, often in run-rule victory over Texas Tech, 12-2

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The sixth-seeded Horned Frogs exploded offensively in Wednesday night’s 12-2 victory over the third-seeded Texas Tech Red Raiders in seven innings due to the mercy rule.

The Red Raider’s pitching misfires provided the Horned Frogs with 14 walks.

The win marks TCU’s twelfth in their last 17 ballgames.

“Certainly excited to win a ball game,” Head Coach Jim Schlossnalge said. “We aren’t in any position to complain about how it looks or the way it happened. We just need to survive and advance.”

Pushed back two hours from its original start time due to the previous game running long, the game’s first pitch from Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City, Okla. was not thrown until 9:30 p.m.

“It might make a difference for a 47-year-old coach,” Schlossnagle said. “It doesn’t make a big difference for these guys. We’ve been waiting around to play all day.”

Sophomore pitcher Nick Lodolo got the nod on the mound Wednesday night and limited an offensive threat from the Red Raiders. In 4.2 innings of action, he allowed one earned run on seven hits, walking four batters and fanning six.

Nick Lodolo silenced Texas Tech’s offensive firepower Wednesday night. Photo by Cristian ArguetaSoto

The Horned Frogs clicked offensively in the second inning and exploded for an early six-run lead over the Red Raiders.

“That really boosted our morale and took some pressure off our pitcher,” junior right fielder A.J. Balta said. “It allowed us to open up the way that we play the game as an offense and as a defense.”

Texas Tech’s starting pitcher Ryan Sublette could not find the strike zone in his short, one-inning outing. He allowed four earned runs, walking five and fanning only one batter. Junior center fielder Johnny Rizer opened the second inning with a single into right field and Sublette followed with three consecutive walks to sophomore catcher Zach Humphreys, senior first baseman Connor Wanhanen and first-year shortstop Adam Oviedo to score Rizer and keep the bases loaded.

Following Oviedo’s walk, Sublette was pulled for sophomore Caleb Freeman. The pitching change did not fix Tech’s struggles. Sophomore third baseman Conner Shepherd singled into center field, scoring Wanhanen and Humphreys and advancing Oviedo to second. Junior left fielder Josh Watson was hit to load the bases and Balta ripped a three-run double into center field to clear the bases.

“I’m proud of A.J. for getting a big hit,” Schlossnagle said. “We haven’t had too many bases-clearing doubles to this point this year. That was a big one for us.”

The Red Raiders threatened in the bottom of the second inning as Lodolo walked designated hitter Zach Rheams and surrendered a double to first baseman Cameron Warren to put two runners in scoring position with zero outs. Lodolo responded with a strikeout, groundout and tagged Rheams out at the plate following a wild pitch to keep the lead at six.

TCU extended their lead in the fourth inning. Following a walk to Watson, Balta doubled to centerfield to put two runners in scoring position with no outs. Landestoy followed with a single up the middle to score both Watson and Balta, which increased TCU’s lead to eight runs.

Shepherd opened up the fifth inning with a walk and ultimately worked his way around the bases and scored TCU’s ninth run of the ballgame. He advanced to second on a walk to Boulware and moved to third after Watson flew out to right field. Balta flew out to centerfield, scoring Shepherd for his fiftieth RBI of the season.

A.J. Balta’s first Big 12 Championship game was highlighted by his bases-clearing double. Photo by Cristian ArguetaSoto

Lodolo surrendered his first run of the game in the fifth inning. Red Raider catcher Braxton Fulford singled and scored from second base off a single by third baseman Josh Jung. An infield single by left fielder Grant Little loaded the bases and Schlossnagle called on the bullpen to finish the job.

Fellow sophomore Charles King entered the game to relieve Lodolo and his first pitch flew past Humphreys for a wild pitch and scored Brian Klein from third base.

In two innings pitched, King allowed zero earned runs on three hits, striking out four and walking none.

“We put all hands on deck to win a ballgame,” Schlossnagle said. “Charles King bounced back quick. I wanted to limit the number of pitches he threw because we’re going to need him again in this tournament.”

The Frogs responded to Texas Tech’s two-run inning with a run of their own. Rizer opened up the sixth inning with a walk and scored on a Humphreys double down the left field line to score him from first, extending TCU’s lead back to eight runs.

TCU continued to pile on the runs in the seventh inning. Landestoy lead off the inning with a double and was followed by three consecutive walks to Humphreys, Rizer, and Wanhanen, which scored Landestoy to lead 11-2. An RBI groundout by Oviedo scored Rizer from third, giving the Horned Frogs their largest lead of the night at 10 runs.

With TCU leading by 10 runs following the seventh inning, the game was called on the league’s 10-run mercy rule.

The Frogs are aware of their precarious fate headed into the Big 12 Championship, likely needing to win the conference tournament to qualify for the NCAA Tournament.

“We know the position we’re in,” Wanhanen said. “I don’t think there’s any sense of panic, there’s more sense of urgency. We know what we have to do and that’s taking it one pitch at a time for the rest of the week. This is a great start to the week.”

With the victory, the Horned Frogs are scheduled to face No. 7 West Virginia in the winner’s bracket, fresh off a victory over No. 2 Oklahoma State. First pitch against the Mountaineers is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Thursday.