The 2021 State Farm Showdown is more than just a tournament to TCU Baseball.
It’s more than just an opportunity to play at the Texas Rangers shiny new stadium, it’s more than just a chance to try and one-up a field of SEC powerhouses, and it’s more than just another packed weekend of baseball.
For TCU baseball, the tournament represents a chance to prove to the nation that they still are one of the nation’s premier baseball programs–a chance that was stripped from them 350 days ago by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Filled with talent from top-to-bottom and ranked 10th nationally headed into the season, the Frogs also represent a new hope for TCU athletics, as a bowl game cancellation and poor play have plagued their recent football and basketball seasons.
After falling in a tough bout with No. 6 Ole’ Miss in their season opener, the Frogs got back on track on Sunday afternoon with a hard-fought 3-2 win over No. 7 Mississippi State.
“Yesterday was tough,” head coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “Early morning [today], and I’m proud of our team.”
Though TCU was only able to put up four hits in the contest, it was their dominance on the mound that earned them the win in what was a scrappy game from start-to-finish.
Redshirt sophomore Russell Smith started for the Frogs and delivered with 5.1 innings pitched, six strikeouts, three hits, a walk and an earned run.
After three of his five full innings went by in 1-2-3 fashion, Smith’s one earned run came on a bomb over the center field wall by MSU’s Landon Jordan.
Schlossnagle went to his bullpen shortly after, but the strong pitching didn’t cease.
Sophomore Marcelo Perez picked up where Smith had left off, pitching three full innings of strong relief. The Laredo, Texas, native looked confident from the jump, striking out four, giving up just one hit, and sacrificing zero runs through the bottom of the eighth.
“I can hardly talk right now,” Schlossnagle said. “[I’m] super proud of Russell Smith and Marcelo [Perez]. [I] thought they did an awesome job.”
Things got dramatic in the bottom of the ninth, though. Perez got the first out on his fifth strikeout of the day, but the Bulldogs then produced hits on their next three batters, running through Perez and reliever Augie Mihlbauer.
With TCU clinging to a one-run run lead, up to pitch came true freshman Garrett Wright in his first-ever appearance in a TCU uniform.
After loading the bases with a four-pitch walk, Wright forced a groundout into a double play and saved the day for TCU.
“I was a little nervous for him [Wright],” Smith said. “But he’s one of the best out there, better than me as a freshman. [I was] a little nervous, but [we] got the out we needed to win.”
The Frogs did leave more than a few opportunities on the board in the game. On the day, TCU left eight runners on base, finishing 0-for-11 from the plate with runners in scoring position.
Sometimes, it’s better to be lucky than good, though, as the Frogs’ scoring got started in the first on two-straight errors by the Bulldogs.
TCU’s ensuing two runs, including the one that proved to be the game-winner, came on sacrifice flies in the sixth and seventh innings.
Zero Horned Frogs finished the day with multiple base hits, but redshirt senior Austin Henry and freshman Elijah Nunez led with the way for TCU with a double each.
TCU gets back to work tomorrow, as they return to Globe Life Field to take on No. 8 Arkansas. First pitch against the Razorbacks is scheduled for 6 p.m.