No. 15 TCU (16-9, 3-1) beat Air Force (11-14, 0-3) Friday night ,10-2, behind another strong start from junior starting pitcher Kyle Winkler (5-1) and an offensive outburst. TCU got the lead early, and never came close to relinquishing it.
Frogs’ junior center fielder Aaron Shultz’s single got things going in the first inning for TCU, and junior shortstop Taylor Featherson walked to get two men on the bases. Junior left fieler Jason Coats singled to loaded the bases for sophomore third baseman Jantzen Witte. Witte’s RBI groundout to second base gave the Frogs the early 1-0 lead.
In the top of the second, Winkler struck out the side, which accounted for three of his season-high 15 strikeouts.
“I was really getting guys out on my slider,” Winkler said. “That’s my big strikeout pitch.”
Good things continued in the third inning for TCU when junior right fielder Brance Rivera who blasted a solo home run to left field on an inside fastball from Air Force starter Evan Abrecht (5-2). The hit also extended Rivera’s hit streak to 25 games, the longest during the Jim Schlossnagle era.
“Brance is an example of a very good athlete and a really hard worker,” head baseball coach Jim Schlossnagle. “He’s a really good person with off the chart character. When you have good people that are hard workers, it normally works out for them.”
The power didn’t stop in the fourth for TCU, as senior first baseman Joe Weik smashed a two-run homer to left after junior designated hitter Zac Jordan’s infield single. The dinger was Weik’s second of the season. That gave Winkler and TCU a 5-0 cushion, more than would be needed.
Air Force recorded their first hit and run of the game in the top of the fifth inning on a single to center field by Matt Thorne.
The Frogs would counter in the bottom of the inning, though, on an RBI single by Witte. That made the score 6-1. A sacrifice fly by Featherston an inning later would bring the lead to 7-1.
TCU was far from done, however. A single by senior second baseman Jerome Pena followed by a Weik double gave TCU their 11th hit of the game and an 8-1 lead. Senior catcher Jimmie Pharr then followed that up with a homerun to left, giving TCU the 10-1 lead. Pharr now has nine straight games with at least two hits.
The game was well out of hand by that point, but Air Force wasn’t ready to give in and loaded the bases against TCU junior reliever Kyle Starratt. The “rally” was cut short by a slick 4-6-3 double play turned by Pena and Featherson. Pena slid to his left and flipped the ball to Featherston, who then threw to first to complete the play.
“Middle infield is the hardest position to play in the field, and their great infielders,” Rivera said of the play.
Freshman pitcher Tyler Duffie made his third appearance of the season to finish up the game for the Frogs in the ninth inning. TCU is now 3-1 in MWC play.
Winkler recorded his fifth win of the season, and after the game Rivera was happy with the outcome
“I feel like we’re right there,” Rivera said. “This is TCU baseball. We’ll take this every game.”
Matt Purke and TCU take on Air Force again tomorrow at Lupton Stadium at 4 p.m.