The baseball gods appeared to look down with favor in providing perfect weather for a Friday evening season opener between TCU and visitor Jacksonville.
Brandon Finnegan, meanwhile, gave the 3,742 assembled at Lupton Stadium a glimpse of perfection.
The junior lefty from Fort Worth Southwest struck out eight of the first nine batters he faced as part of seven shutout innings and a career-high 13 strikeouts in the Horned Frogs’ 5-0 victory in the first of a three-game weekend set against the Dolphins.
Finnegan limited Jacksonville to three hits and three walks.
Jerrick Suiter, who had two RBIs, and Kyle Bacak each had two-out run-scoring hits.
Finnegan didn’t seem a mere mortal until allowing his first base runner on Connor Marabell’s single to left in the fourth inning.
He threw both his fastball and off-speed pitches for strikes. Of his first 51 pitches, only 13 were balls. For the game, he threw 98 pitches and 72 for strikes.
“All I wanted to do was pound the zone as best as I could,” Finnegan said. “I knew if I threw strikes and we got outs, we’d win.”
Trey Teakell pitched a scoreless eighth and ninth to wrap up the game for the Frogs.
The victory was Finnegan’s first since June 2012 against Mississippi in the NCAA Regionals. Finnegan suffered from a lack of run support a season ago when he went 0-8 with a 3.18 ERA in 15 starts.
The Frogs got enough offense in Game 1.
Suiter and Bacak had run-scoring singles in the first and second innings, and Kevin Cron opened the game with a two-run double in the seventh.
Cody Jones, TCU’s leadoff hitter, reached base in each of his four at-bats with three hits and a walk. He also had two stolen bases and two runs scored.
“My job is to set the tone for the game with a positive at-bat,” said Jones, the center fielder. “The goal is to get in position for the big guys to drive me in.
“And Brandon ... what else do you need from a pitcher? He was awesome.”
Jacksonville starter Alex McRae took the loss. He gave up three runs on six hits in five innings.
Jacksonville coach Tim Montez was impressed enough with the TCU starter to compare him to Cliff Lee, whom Montez coached at Arkansas.
“When he’s in control of his emotions that allows him to be in control of his body, which allows him to be in control of his pitches,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said.
“He was very, very impressive. You couldn’t ask for much more in a first outing.”