For seven innings Tuesday night, Jantzen Witte's home run was all the TCU baseball team needed. The junior's solo shot over the left field wall in the fifth inning was the Horned Frogs' first hit of the game, but it was enough for TCU to carry a 1-0 lead into the eighth over No. 9 Texas A&M.
That's why they play nine.
Chance Bolcerek tripled in Scott Arthur, and Matt Juengel singled home Bolcerek, as Texas A&M got on the board in the eighth inning en route to a 4-1 win over the Frogs Tuesday night at Lupton Stadium.
The Aggies' pair of eighth inning runs was all they would need, as right-hander Kyle Martin (5-3) held the Frogs scoreless the rest of the game to earn the win out of the bullpen.
But for most of Tuesday night's game, the spotlight belonged to the starting pitchers.
TCU's Brandon Finnegan, making his first start since March 25, threw 5.1 scoreless innings, striking out three and giving up just three hits. Finnegan, who in between starts saw time in relief, has now thrown 15 scoreless innings.
TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle said some fatigue set in on the true freshman late in his outing, but he fought through it. Plus, as Schlossnagle pointed out, it's always good to have no errors in the field.
"I thought he was pitching on some fumes there those last few innings, mainly because he hadn't been stretched out very much," Schlossnagle said. "But he made pitches when he had to, and I thought our defense in the infield was really good."
Finnegan, though, was nearly out-dueled by A&M starter Daniel Mengden, who was close to perfect Tuesday night, throwing six innings and limiting the Frogs to just one hit and one run, both coming off of Witte's homer. Mengden didn't a throw a pitch with a runner on base, working entirely out of the wind-up and retiring 18 of the 19 batters he faced.
Schlossnagle said the Frogs knew beforehand what Mengden was capable of.
"He's a good player," Schlossnagle said. "He didn't surprise us or anything. We knew he was mainly going to throw fastballs and try to beat our bats. He threw strikes and we were real aggressive."
The Aggies took advantage of Finnegan's exit.
Right-hander Justin Scharf finished up the sixth and pitched a scoreless seventh inning before giving up a leadoff single to Arthur to start the eighth. That's when TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle brought in typically-reliable Kevin Allen, who entered Tuesday with a team-low 0.42 ERA in 18 innings of work.
But Allen struggled, giving up the triple to Bolcerek and then the single to Juengel that gave the Aggies the lead and eventually tagged the right-hander with the loss.
Witte collected two of TCU's three hits in the game — his homer in the fifth inning and a single to right field in the seventh. Right-fielder Kyle Von Tungeln had the Frogs' other hit, a single up the middle in the ninth inning.
The loss was TCU's second in a row. The Horned Frogs (23-15 overall, 11-4 Mountain West) lost 5-3 at San Diego State on Sunday.
A&M's win was its first since dropping a three-game set over the weekend to No. 2 Baylor, who had its 24-game winning streak snapped Tuesday night in a 4-1 loss to UT-San Antonio.
TCU will be back in action Friday against Manhattan at home. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.