The TCU baseball team fell to Michigan State University 2-1 in the two teams’ first ever match-up on Friday night at Lupton Stadium.
Junior pitcher Brandon Finnegan (2-2, 2.09 ERA) struck out 12 batters in a complete-game effort. He allowed only two runs and four hits in the loss.
The only blemish on his night came in the ninth, when he gave up a go-ahead, 2-run home run to MSU’s Blaise Salter, who carried a 10-game hitting streak and .341 average into the game.
“This sport is brutal sometimes,” TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “Finnegan was outstanding, you’ve got to give him credit.”
It was clear early on that the game would be a pitchers’ duel. Finnegan retired the first nine batters he faced, and Spartans pitcher Justin Alleman only allowed one hit in the same time-frame.
The Frogs had an opportunity in the bottom of the third after a lead-off single from junior first baseman Garrett Crain, but they followed it up with a sacrifice bunt, a pop-fly, and a groundout.
Crain went 3-for-4 on the night and is now hitting .423 for the year.
Finnegan worked around a one-out double off the bat of MSU’s Jimmy Pickens in the fifth by inducing fly-ball outs from the next two hitters.
In the sixth, senior right fielder Dylan Fitzgerald made an error on a 1-out fly-ball from Cam Gibson, allowing Gibson to advance to third. Finnegan then fielded a come-backer off the bat of Anthony Cheky and ran down Gibson, who had frozen between third and home-plate.
In the next at-bat, senior catcher Kyle Bacak picked off Cheky at first for the third out, his third pick-off of the season.
TCU opened the scoring in the bottom of the inning. Sophomore left fielderBoomer White led off with a line-drive down the third-base line and advanced to second on the play when the left fielder Gibson slipped and fell during his throw.
Junior third baseman Derek Odell hit a ground ball to the right side to advance White to third. In the next at-bat, junior designated hitter Kevin Cron struck out swinging but advanced to first on the passed ball.
In the next at-bat, junior Connor Castellano hit a chopper over Alleman’s head and beat it out to first, allowing White to score.
The Frogs had another opportunity in the seventh when junior center-fielder Cody Jones hit a 2-out single and subsequently stole his 12th bag of the season.
Fitzgerald then drew a walk, but a failed double-steal attempt left Fitzgerald out to dry. Jones couldn’t score before Fitzgerald was tagged out.
In the ninth, Finnegan got pinch hitter MSU’s Dan Durkin to ground-out for the first out. He then walked Gibson on four pitches. The next hitter, Cheky, grounded out.
Finnegan fell behind 3-1 to Salter though, who was waiting on a fastball and drove one over the left-field wall to win the game for Michigan State.
“It was a fastball count, so he got what he got and he did something with it,” Finnegan said.
Despite the loss, Schlossnagle was satisfied with his players’ approaches at the plate.
“I felt really good about our at-bats tonight,” Schlossnagle said. “We had a lot of really good at-bats against their guy.”
The Frogs will send junior Preston Morrison (1-1, 0.39 ERA) to the mound in their second game against Michigan State on Saturday at 1:00 p.m.