It wasn’t a good sign for TCU’s prospects for victory over Oral Roberts when starting pitcher Kyle Winkler, the Frogs’ best pitcher this season, was taken out though only 2/3 of an inning after aggravating the injury of his right elbow.
Winkler was then shown on the broadcast to have his arm in a sling in the dugout later in the game, visibly frustrated over the injury.
He wouldn’t be the only Horned Frog frustrated by the end of the afternoon. The Horned Frogs season ended much sooner than expected, falling to Oral Roberts 8-4.
As was the case for most of the losses this season, mistakes and a lack of execution cost the Frogs a game they had no business losing. The Horned Frogs stranded eight runners on base. Those tend to add up, especially in a game when they are struggling offensively.
The Frogs finished the game with only seven hits most of which came after the game was out of reach. The Golden Eagles, however, were patient on offense and took advantage of mistakes by TCU pitching, and ended up with 12.
Some moments in the game that stood out were the times TCU had multiple runners on base with fewer than two outs, and ended up not fully capitalizing on the opportunity.
With runners on first and second and no outs in the third inning in a scoreless game, Brance Rivera was picked off at second base. That simply cannot happen in the biggest game of your season. It gives the pitcher a free out, one where he doesn’t have to worry about facing a hitter.
While the Frogs eventually loaded the bases and scored two runs, the out cost them another opportunity to bring extend the lead, which ended up proving costly.
Oral Roberts got their chance with the bases loaded and one out, and they took advantage of their opportunity. Trailing 2-0, they got five hits and scored four runs, two of which came off an error by Horned Frog relief pitcher Erik Miller.
The fifth inning was once again a prime example of a wasted opportunity by the Frogs. After Jerome Pena got on base when he was hit by a pitch, and Kyle Von Tungeln flied out, Jantzen Witte singled to deep center field. It should have resulted with runners on second and third with only one out, but Pena only advanced to second because he was unsure if the ball was caught by the center fielder.
The next batter, Josh Elander, then flied deep to center field, which would have given Pena more than enough time to tag up from third had he paid attention the previous play and would have cut the deficit to one run. Instead, Pena stayed at second again, much to the dismay of the crowd. The Frogs ended the top of the fifth empty handed once again due to a lack of concentration.
The Horned Frogs showed some life again in the sixth inning when Taylor Featherston drew a walk and advanced to second on a balk by Golden Eagles reliever Sean Johnson. Zac Jordan then doubled him home, cutting the lead to 4-3.
After a walk by Brance Rivera gave the Frogs runners on first and second with only one out, it appeared the Frogs would at least tie the game and keep their hopes alive. But Jerome Pena struck out and Von Tungeln popped out to left field, ending another prime chance to open up the game.
The following half inning, Oral Roberts loaded the bases, and Golden Eagles left fielder Chris Elder crushed a pitch belt-high and down the middle of a plate for a grand slam, ending any hopes for a Horned Frog comeback.
There’s not much else to say about this game, or the season for that matter. This was a team that had the talent and the respect of the baseball community to get the No. 1 spot by Collegiate Baseball. Most players were back from the squad that captured the attention of fans in Omaha at the College World Series in 2010. This was supposed to be their year.
Yes, there were multiple injuries during the season, some to key players like Matt Purke and Steven Maxwell, in addition to Winkler, the team was still one loaded with talented players. Yes, the newer bats instituted by the NCAA meant balls weren’t that were once home runs for the Frogs now resulted in routine outs, but every team and player in collegiate baseball had to deal with this change.
To go out the way the Frogs did, in such uninspiring fashion to an inferior team, and at their own stadium no less, should hopefully be all the motivation they need to get ready for the 2012 season.
The reasons why TCU won’t be heading back to the Super Regionals or the College World series are most likely abundant in number. But the reasons don’t really matter right now. What does is that what was supposed to be the best year in TCU baseball history may end up being the most disappointing.