The non-conference schedule did not go quite as planned for TCU baseball.
After a strong performance against three of the nation’s best teams at the State Farm Showdown, the Frogs looked to be without much of an identity, losing five games in a 12-day span leading into conference play.
With most of those questions circling around the offensive side of the ball, TCU got a much-needed confidence booster this weekend, utterly dominating Baylor over three games.
The Frogs outscored the Bears 24-4 on the weekend, sweeping Baylor at Lupton Baseball Stadium to deliver a perfect start to the Big 12 Conference season for TCU and prove that they really could swing the bat at an elite level.
Led by their starters, the Frogs looked sharp from the mound all weekend, giving up just 13 hits total to the Bears in the series.
Catcher Zach Humphreys was unconscious from the plate, collecting seven hits, five RBIs and five runs in the three games. First baseman Gene Wood also added his third and fourth home runs of the season.
Though it took a while for their offense to get going, TCU rode elite pitching and a late-game hitting surge to a narrow 3-1 win over Baylor on Friday night in by far the closest game the teams would see all weekend.
Starting on Friday night for the second-straight weekend, LHP Russell Smith was lights-out for a career-high 6 2/3 innings, giving up just four hits and zero runs while collecting six strikeouts.
Per usual, reliever Haylen Green followed Smith’s dominance with a stellar performance of his own, earning his fourth save of the year on just one hit and zero earned runs were given up over 2 1/3 innings.
Through the first five innings, Baylor starter Tyler Thomas was even sharper from the mound than Smith, holding the Frogs hitless.
Finally, in the bottom of the sixth, Humphreys hit a two-out triple to score right fielder Phillip Sikes from first and put TCU on the board first.
Home runs by designated hitter Hunter Wolfe and Humphreys in the seventh and eighth innings, respectively, would go on to provide the Frogs with the only insurance they would need to earn the series-opening victory.
Though they collected five hits, the Bears were never able to stack any offensive production, scoring their one run on a pair of errors by the Frogs in the eighth.
The game was the fifth multi-hit contest of the year for Humphreys and TCU’s sixth matchup this season in which they hit two or more home runs.
With their bats now warm, TCU scored 10 runs in the first three innings, and starter Austin Krob carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning, as the Frogs routed the Bears 11-2 on Saturday to ensure a series win.
It wasn’t until there were two outs in the top of the seventh that Baylor collected their first hit in the ballgame. Krob had previously given up just two walks while striking out a career-high nine in yet another near-perfect performance from a TCU pitcher.
A resounding five-run first inning almost did not happen for the Frogs, but an error by the Bears as they attempted to collect the third out of the inning gave TCU an opportunity that they took advantage of.
Having already scored a run on a single by Humphreys prior to the error, the Frogs then went on to score four-straight unearned runs, three of which came on a bomb to the bullpen in left field by Wolfe.
Wolfe would do more damage in the second, beating out a throw at first to prevent a double play and scoring third baseman Brayden Taylor.
In the third first baseman Gene Wood hit another long ball for the Frogs, scoring two more to give TCU a resounding 10-0 lead before Baylor could even blink.
With his fourth hit of the day, Humphreys ripped an RBI single up the middle to put the cherry on top of the Frogs’ utter domination of the Bears.
Baylor would go on to score two runs in the ninth to avoid the shutout.
Though TCU had looked strong all-around, the game had been a statement from Humphreys, who collected multiple hits in a game for the sixth time this year and the 34th time in his four-year career.
A new day brought the same result for the Frogs, as they got momentum from a second-straight five-run first inning and never looked back, rolling over Baylor 10-1 to complete the series sweep.
TCU had Baylor starter Hayden Kettler’s number from the beginning, as the first seven Horned Frogs that stepped up to the plate got on base.
After Taylor got the scoring going with a two-run single, Wood blasted his second home run in as many days, this one for three runs to put TCU up 5-0 after one.
Taylor wasn’t done, though. In the bottom of the third, the freshman followed a two-run single by center fielder Elijah Nunez with a three-run home run that boasted an exit velocity of over 102 miles per hour.
For the second-straight day, TCU had built a double-digit lead over Baylor before the midway point of the game, ending all hope for the Bears potentially stealing a game in the series.
Yet again, the Frogs shined on the defensive side of the ball as well. Starter Johnny Ray retired 12 of the first 13 batters he faced, giving up just three hits in his 5 1/3 inning outing.
A fifth-inning home run for the Bears was the one time Ray showed sign of mortality all day, and true freshman River Ridings shut things down soon after, pitching a career-high 2 2/3 innings of relief and giving up just two hits.
On the season, TCU is 10-0 when they score in the first inning and 15-2 when they are the first team to score in a contest.
The weekend sweep improves the Frogs to 16-7 on the season and 3-0 in conference play, putting them in first place in the Big 12 standings.
For the next two weeks, TCU will leave the friendly confines of Lupton Stadium and head on the road for eight-straight games. Up first is a matchup with UT-Arlington on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.