The Frogs’ continued their late game struggles as they fell to the Houston Cougars in the first game of this weekend’s series Friday night. TCU carried a five run lead into the ninth inning but allowed six runs and ended up losing 7-6.
Head baseball coach Jim Schlossnagle called the loss the toughest one in his tenure at TCU. Junior starting pitcher Kyle Winkler allowed one run in eight innings of action but junior closer Erik Miller blew his first save of the season during a ninth inning that saw TCU use three pitchers to record three outs. The loss drops TCU to 1-5 in one run games.
The beginning of the game belonged to TCU as the Frogs scored four runs in the first two innings. TCU’s first at-bat of the game saw junior right fielder Brance Rivera extend his hitting streak to 21 games. Junior center fielder Aaron Schultz’s sacrifice bunt moved Rivera to second and after junior short stop Taylor Featherston walked, junior left fielder Jason Coats singled up the middle to bring Rivera in. In the second, a double steal put sophomore catcher Josh Elander and sophomore designated hitter Kyle Von Tungeln in scoring position. Schultz drove both runners in and then stole second himself before being driven in by Featherston.
In the top of the third, Winkler continued to dominate by recording three strikeouts. Though he finished with a no decision, Winkler ended his night with just one run allowed in eight innings pitched. He struck out nine batters, which is one more than he let on base.
“If I leave Winkler in the game, we win,” Schlossnagle said. “He had done his job. We had a five run lead in the ninth inning.”
After jumping out to a quick lead, the Frogs kept the score static until the sixth inning. To open the inning, senior first baseman Joe Weik doubled and then moved to third on a Von Tungeln hit. Rivera hit a double and Schultz loaded the bases after getting hit by a pitch. Featherston then knocked in two more runs with a base hit, expanding the lead to 6-0. A base running error on a sacrifice fly ended the inning.
TCU continued to struggle with leaving players on base as 12 base runners ended innings still on base. This mitigated the fact that TCU outhit Houston 13 to 9. The seventh inning ended with senior second baseman Jerome Pena and senior catcher Jimmie Pharr in scoring position when Houston pitcher Luke Morgan worked out the jam by getting a strike out and a popup. Such miscues were particularly frustrating for Schlossnagle, who said after the game, “We are swinging the bat well, but we failed to execute and we did a lot of poor things on offense. We should have had 10 or 11 runs, but it wasn’t because of not hitting.”
Whereas TCU did not score after the sixth, Houston tallied its first run of the night in the eighth inning. Back-to-back singles opened up the inning for Houston before Winkler forced a double play. Chase Jensen then sent the ball rolling down the third base line, scoring one run.
Winkler was relieved in the ninth and replaced by junior reliever Teddy Nowell, who allowed two runs without recording a single out. He was replaced by junior Kyle Starratt, who retired a batter but also allowed three runs.
Miller was then brought in with one out in the ninth and the bases loaded. Houston’s Matt Creel hit a two run double to right center that effectively sent the Frogs home with the loss.
The collapse was the first time since March 29, 2009 that the Frogs lost a game after heading into the ninth inning with the lead. The streak ended at 86 games.