The No. 6 Horned Frogs will advance to the final game of the Conoco Mountain West Conference baseball championships following their 5-2 victory over UNLV Thursday night with the help of sophomore Kyle Winkler’s right arm.
Winkler tossed his third career complete game and struck out a career-high 12. Junior Joe Weik drove in two of the Frogs five runs in the win.
Winkler was brilliant on the mound in earning his tenth win of the season (10-1). He surrendered just two runs on nine hits, didn’t walk a batter and struck out 12. Following a two-out infield single in the seventh, Winkler sat down the final seven batters he faced to rack up his third career complete game. It is also the second year in a row Winkler has tossed a complete game in the Mountain West Conference Tournament, doing so against BYU in the 2009 tournament.
The Frogs looked poised to jump out to an early lead in the second inning. Weik had led off the frame with a base hit and moved to second on a one-out single off the bat of freshman Aaron Schultz. Davy Wright drove the ball through the left side and Weik tried to score from second but UNLV left fielder Brandon Bayardi came up throwing and gunned Weik out at home to end the inning.
In the third inning, a lead-off single did translate into the first run of the ballgame. Brance Rivera dropped the single down the right field line. A balk moved him to second and he scored on a long fly ball off the bat of Jason Coats, who ended up on third after an error by the right fielder. Weik made it a 2-0 lead with a sacrifice fly.
The Rebels cut the Frog lead in half in the top of the fourth, picking up a run on three hits. Bayardi led off the inning with a base hit and scored on a two-out single off the bat of Nolan Clark.
A lead-off triple by Hunter Beaty turned into the tying run in the top of the fifth inning. Jarred Frierson grounded out to second base to plate Beaty to make it a 2-2 ballgame.
The tie wouldn’t last long as the Frogs bounced back to pick up a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth. Bryan Holaday worked a lead-off walk and moved to third on Coats’ second double of the game. Matt Curry put the Frogs back on top with an RBI ground out and Weik collected his second sacrifice fly of the game to double up the Rebels, 4-2.
TCU tacked on a run in the bottom of the sixth, taking advantage of a lead-off walk to Jantzen Witte. Wright did his job, sacrificing Witte to second where he scored from on an error by the shortstop on a ball hit by Holaday for a 5-2 lead.
The Frogs improved to 45-11 overall on the season and will play for their sixth conference tournament championship in the last seven years on Friday night. TCU will play the winner of the elimination game between the second-seeded New Mexico Lobos and the fifth-seeded UNLV Rebels. The Frogs’ game is slated for a 9 p.m. start. MWC Pitcher of the Year Steven Maxwell will aim for his 10th win of the season in the championship contest.