Fresh from stealing No. 18 New Mexico’s spot atop the Mountain West Conference with a weekend sweep, the Horned Frog baseball team hits the road this week brimming with confidence.
Now in a first-place tie with San Diego State, they’ll need that confidence as they play eight of their next nine games away from Lupton Stadium, including a showdown with Texas in Austin tonight and a rematch with Oklahoma in Norman next Tuesday.
Five sluggers belted home runs in a 19-3 rout of New Mexico Sunday afternoon, which included two grand slams in the fifth inning from designated hitter Jimmie Pharr and third baseman Matt Carpenter.
Five Horned Frog runs in the opening frame were plenty for freshman starter Kyle Winkler, who allowed three runs off three hits in five innings to earn the victory. With the wind gusting straight out to left field, left fielder Jason Coats, right fielder Chris Ellington and catcher Bryan Holaday all hit two-run home runs to jolt the Horned Frog offense. Carpenter went 3 for 5 on the day with five RBIs and finished a single short of the cycle. All nine Horned Frog starters touched the plate on 22 team hits.
“We’re starting to play really good defense, we’re pitching well, the bats are starting to come around and our confidence is at its highest right now,” Carpenter said. “We hope we can take it on this road stretch and hopefully keep it going.”
Though the wind blowing toward the outfield helped, head coach Jim Schlossnagle noted the team’s ability to hit the ball out of the park.
“We have some power on our club,” he said. “We’re leading the conference in homers and we play in the worst hitting ballpark, but when we go on the road we usually show it.”
Horned Frog pitchers held New Mexico, which led the nation with a .407 batting average entering the weekend, to three runs or fewer in each game of the series.
“I thought we pitched really well,” Schlossnagle said. “It set the tone for the weekend, and then the bats came alive today.”
With the bases loaded and the Horned Frogs leading 6-2 in the bottom of the fifth, Lobo coach Ray Birmingham called on closer Clinton Cox to keep the Lobos close. He didn’t.
Pharr blasted Cox’s first pitch over the left-center field fence, and Carpenter deposited a 1-2 offering off Jason Oatman over the right-center field wall three batters later to put eight runs on the scoreboard. Nine runs were scored in the inning.
When Carpenter headed back to the dugout, Pharr was waiting for him.
“I guess we just put ourselves in a part of TCU history,” Carpenter said Pharr told him.
“We rarely see nine runs in an inning, let alone two grand slams,” Carpenter said. “That was pretty cool to do that in the same inning.”