After waiting eight days since his team’s loss to Texas Tech in the Big 12 Tournament, TCU centerfielder Cody Jones didn’t waste any time making sure the Frogs didn’t fall behind in their NCAA regional opener.
Jones, TCU’s lead off hitter, blasted a curveball from Sacred Heart’s starting pitcher James Cooksey over the right field wall.
“I think it was just big for us just to come out and prove to ourselves that we’re past, it, we’re over it,” Jones said. “We came out better in the days that we had, and I think we showed it tonight.”
The run from Jones’ solo homer was all the Horned Frogs needed to send the Sacred Heart Pioneers (23-31-1) to the losers bracket of the Fort Worth regional, but TCU (44-11) piled on nine more runs, which resulted in a final score of 10-0.
TCU starting pitcher Mitchell Traver hadn’t taken the mound for the Frogs since May 14, but he made sure Sacred Heart never came close to threatening the Horned Frogs’ lead.
In his first NCAA Tournament start of his career, Traver allowed no runs, struck out seven, walked three and only gave up four hits over seven innings pitched. Sacred Heart put a runner on second just four times and never had a runner at third base all game long.
Sacred Heart head coach Nick Giaquinto said Traver’s height, movement and speed gave his team trouble at the plate.
“That downward plain early on–he had a bunch of ground balls so he had a lot of sink too,” Giaquinto said. “His breaking ball was very sharp, our guys weren’t really picking it up.”
The Frogs gave Traver plenty of run support as they broke the game open in the bottom of the third after Cooksey surrendered walks to Cody Jones, Jeremie Fagnan and Connor Wanhanen. With the bases loaded, TCU catcher Evan Skoug lined a single to center field, scoring Jones. Then, third baseman Derek Odell hit a sacrifice fly to score Fagan. Right fielder Nolan Brown knocked in a third run by finding a hole in the left side of the infield to score Wanhanen.
The Frogs tacked on two more in the fifth inning when Sacred Heart took out Cooksey.
Dan Wertz, who is possibly the Pioneers’ best arm out of the bullpen, had only one runner on base with two outs in the fifth. But three consecutive singles by Brown, Keaton Jones and Garret Crain scored two, giving the Frogs a 6-0 lead.
Fagnan came into score another run for the Frogs in sixth inning after he hit an infield single and stole second and third base before Brown hit him in with a RBI ground ball.
In the eighth inning, the Pioneers defense came unraveled when a Cody Jones double scored Dane Steinhagen after Kenny Bryam made an errant throw to third base. Then with two outs, Sacred Heart shortstop Zach Short missed a throw to first base on a fielder’s choice that put Fagnan and Zach Plunkett at second and third. Derek Odell knocked both runners home during the following at bat to put the Frogs up 10-0.
“One thing you can’t do is let up,” Fagnan said. “We just got to play the same way we played since the opening game of the season.”
The Frogs will face the NC State Wolfpack, who also shutout their opponent, Stony Brook, in Friday’s afternoon match up by a final score of 3-0. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Lupton Stadium. TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said Preston Morrison will get the start on the mound for the Frogs.