Seeking a three-game sweep to begin its season, TCU’s baseball team swung and missed at the few opportunities it had on Sunday afternoon.
The Horned Frogs walked softly to a 2-0 loss when the bats remained holstered, a condition caused primarily by Jacksonville pitcher Justin Russell, who beat TCU hitters to the draw time and again at Lupton Stadium.
TCU (2-1) lacked both base runners and the timely hits that highlighted consecutive victories to start the season.
Russell kept TCU hitters vexed, working seven innings of three-hit baseball, striking out four and walking three.
“He didn’t have too much of anything overpowering, but he did one thing that all good pitchers do and that’s throw strikes,” TCU first baseman Kevin Cron said. “He pounded the zone and kept us off-balance.
“We had some opportunities and they got by us.”
Adam Maxon pitched a scoreless eighth and ninth to earn the save for the Dolphins (1-2).
The Frogs stranded 11 runners, including leaving the bases full to end the game.
Pinch hitter Jeremie Fagnan was hit by a pitch to load the bases with one out, but Cody Jones struck out and Boomer White blooped out to the shortstop to end the game.
Before that last-gasp rally, TCU had advanced three runners to second base and only two of those to third.
Russell struck out White looking with a runner at third to end the fifth and Keaton Jones in the same circumstance in the sixth.
After loading the bases with two outs in the fifth, TCU starter Tyler Alexander was pulled in favor of lefty Alex Young, who promptly hit Cameron Gibson to bring in the Dolphins’ first run.
Dylan Dillard added insurance with a two-run double off Riley Ferrell in the eighth.
“We didn’t get enough base runners,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said. Russell “made pitches when he had to make them.”
Alexander, a freshman lefty from Southlake Carroll making his collegiate debut, took the loss, giving up one run on six hits in 4 2/3 innings.
“He kept us in the game and he gave us a chance to win,” Schlossnagle said, “but that’s not nearly as good a pitcher as he is.”
Good weather brought out more than 10,000 people for TCU’s first three games. Winning two of three wasn’t enough to alleviate the regret of the players Sunday.
The Frogs play again Tuesday at home against Northern Colorado.
“It’s always nice to win the series, but we wanted the sweep,” Cron said. “We felt like we were playing good baseball. We wanted the sweep.”