No. 4 TCU looked as if their offense was destined to be shutout for the first six innings in a 8-4 loss to No. 12 Cal State-Fullerton Saturday. Titans’ pitcher Tyler Pill had Frog hitter off balance for most of the day.
However, TCU senior first baseman Joe Weik drew a walk to put runners on first and second with just one out. TCU scored twice, and again in the eighth inning as they threatened Cal State Fullerton’s bullpen. Senior second baseman Jerome Pena doubled in a run to tie the game and advanced to third with just one out.
A failed suicide squeeze with senior catcher Jimmy Pharr at the plate ended the Frogs threat. Pena was picked off after Pharr failed to get down the bunt.
In the bottom of the inning, the Frogs’ senior junior closer Erik Miller came unraveled, and questionable umpiring left many of the announced 4,606 fans in attendance booing. Fullerton third baseman Joe Terry slid into home after a suicide squeeze, and Pharr had appeared to block the plate. The umpire called Terry safe, and Terry sent a spike right into catcher Jimmie Pharr’s thigh.
“I do not know how the umpire called him safe because he never got to the plate,” Pharr said.
After Pharr was helped by teammates and trainers, and head coach Jim Schlossnagle had stated his final grievances with the officiating crew (David Wiley, Mark Denzin and Dave Yeast), the Titans had took the lead back. Four runs later the game was out of reach, and TCU would fell 8-4.
TCU’s offense has been stale. Hitters have failed to execute with runners in scoring position, and too many crucial scoring opportunities have come and gone.
TCU sophomore third baseman Jantzen Witte was asked after the game how much impact the new bats were having on the game.
“We don’t like to talk too much about the bats,” Witte said. “Everyone has to play with them. For me, it is not that big of a deal because I just try to hit line drives….we just have to execute with runners in scoring position.”
He is exactly right. The new composite bats dictate that more balls are staying in the ballpark, and runs must be manufactured. TCU’s power hitters like junior left fielder Jason Coats, Weik, and even Witte must concentrate on hitting line drives.
TCU stands at 4-2, and the Frogs have been gifted as good of starting pitching as they could ask for. Sophomore Matt Purke pitched well the first game of the season, and Winkler followed up with a one hitter just a week ago. Freshman Andrew Miller threw a two hitter at Baylor on Tuesday.
As TCU’s offense warms up, wins should come rapidly especially for a team that catches the ball as well as TCU does. Schlossnagle was frustrated after today’s game, but with new bats and a big park, runs will have to come from small ball and line drives. Home runs trending downward by design in the college game now, and TCU may still need to adjust.
Alex Apple is a freshman political science and journalism double major from Nashville, Tenn.
Alex Apple also writes for SportDFW.com