March 17, 2013

TCU wastes huge chance, loses in 12 to drop first Big 12 series

The baseball gods aren’t smiling on the Frogs.

Games like Sunday’s 2-0 loss in 12 innings to Kansas are not easy to talk about for TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle.

But they are easy to explain.

You don’t make the plays, you don’t win.

“You leave the bases loaded with nobody out, you’ve got to play really well to overcome something like that,” Schlossnagle said. “You don’t cash in that opportunity, the baseball gods aren’t going to look very kindly on you.”

Apparently, Kansas starter Thomas Taylor didn’t.

He got out of that fifth-inning jam with a 5-2-3 double play and a strikeout, pitched two more scoreless innings, then the KU bullpen put together another five shutout innings with no walks, four strikeouts and four hits to win the opening Big 12 series of the year for both teams.

“We’re not the most offensive team, as you’ve seen, but yeah, they made good pitches, and they made plays,” Schlossnagle said. “We did the same thing. It was just a matter of who was going to get a ball to fall in at the right time.”

Without run support, TCU starter Brandon Finnegan had nothing to show for his rebound performance. The sophomore from Fort Worth Southwest pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings — a big turnaround from his previous three outings, in which he had allowed 10 earned runs, 16 hits and nine walks.

He still labored a bit. He needed a lunging 6-2-5 putout and a terrific play on a slow roller down the line from third baseman Jantzen Witte to get out of the sixth. And in the fourth, the first two hitters reached before Finnegan got a lineout, a flyout and a strikeout.

But it was an encouraging performance.

“I thought it was a great, great recovery from his last couple outings,” Schlossnagle said. “He was very much in control of the game. They put a lot of pressure on him. They put a lot of pressure on everybody on the bases. And he made pitches when he had to make them and battled like crazy.”

Andrew Mitchell threw 66 pitches in 4 2/3 of relief for TCU (8-11, 1-2), entering with two out and one on in the seventh and leaving with the bases loaded and one out in the 12th. Alex Young came in, got a strikeout, but gave up a bouncing single to left field and a hard single to center for the game’s only runs.

“Mitchell, that’s the most number of pitches he’s thrown in a long time,” Schlossnagle said. “He just did a phenomenal job. And Alex did a good job. He got the strikeout that he needed, and then he got a ground ball that went through the infield.”

Easy to explain.

“We’re being tested right now in every possible phase,” Schlossnagle said. “The baseball gods right now are challenging the Frogs.”

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