Lodolo’s efforts not enough as No. 16 baseball falls to Grand Canyon, 4-1

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Nick Lodolo fanned 10 batters in seven innings Friday night. Photo by Jack Wallace

The Horned Frog faithful may notice something different this season from starting pitcher Nick Lodolo.

Lodolo worked with assistant coach Kirk Saarloos over the offseason to change his pitching mechanics to get better command on his fastball and a tighter breaking ball. The changes have paid dividends early into his junior season.

“Last year, he would cut his fast ball a lot and couldn’t throw it where he wanted to throw it,” head coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “Now, he’s found his breaking ball and has a chance to take off to another level from tonight.”

In his first home start this season, Lodolo finished the night with 10 strikeouts and zero walks in his seven-inning outing. He allowed two runs on four hits and was able to tame a Grand Canyon offense nationally recognized for their firepower. In their first four games of the season, the Lopes averaged eight runs per game, good for 25th nationally.

“My job is to come out on Friday and give our team a chance to win,” Lodolo said. “That’s what I’ve done the last two weeks and I’ve got to continue to do that. The offense will be there, they’ll come around. I’ve just got to continue to do what I do.”

His heroics on the mound were not enough as the Frogs fell to Grand Canyon Friday night 4-1.

Lodolo cruised to begin the game, totaling 19 pitches in the first two frames. He kept the Lopes off the scoreboard in the first and second inning by allowing only one hit while fanning two batters.

Despite striking out the side in the third inning, Lodolo allowed Grand Canyon’s first run of the game on a solo shot by preseason All-American Quin Cotton over the right-field fence. Cotton’s batting average of .390 last season was 14th in the nation.

The Lopes doubled their early lead in the fifth inning off another home run over the right-field fence, this time from third baseman Tyler Wyatt.

“If you told me, for the most part, every Friday night for the rest of the season we were going to get that or 80 to 90 percent of that, then I’d take my chances,” Schlossnagle said. “The underlying thing tonight is Nick Lodolo turned a corner as an elite Division I pitcher.”

The Horned Frogs got on the board first in the second inning off a bomb from first baseman Jake Guenther, sending the ball into the bushes over the right-field fence.

Guenther’s home run was the first of his TCU career. Photo by Jack Wallace

The hit marked the first-career homer by the junior transfer from Sacramento City College in Sacramento, California.

TCU had minimal opportunities to cut into the deficit as GCU’s starting pitcher Kade Mechals kept the Horned Frogs off the basepaths. In 6.1 innings of work, Mechals allowed one run on three hits while fanning six.

The Lopes’ relievers limited the Horned Frogs to one hit with two walks in the final 2.2 innings of the contest.

“They did a really nice job,” Schlossnagle said. “We knew the starter was good. He had a change up going and was a really tough pitch. Any time we had a chance to drive somebody in, we didn’t get the big hit.”

The Lopes added two insurance runs in the eighth inning off a Cotton single into right field and an RBI double down the left field line by Pikai Winchester.

The Horned Frogs will return to the diamond to face Grand Canyon at 3 p.m. Saturday at Lupton Stadium.