TCU took small ball to another level Tuesday night.
The Horned Frogs beat Texas Tech 4-0 at Crutcher Scott Field on the campus of Abilene Christian University despite being outhit six to three and relying on four sacrifices to score all four runs. TCU (27-13) has won five in a row and 12 of its last 13 games. The No. 21 Red Raiders (32-13) have lost two in a row after winning eight straight.
The Frogs’ defense was stellar again, turning three double plays, including one each in the eighth and ninth innings to preserve the nonconference win in front of 1,437.
Texas Tech threatened in the eighth inning after putting the first two batters on against reliever Alex Young. Trey Teakell took over with one on and no outs and walked the first batter he faced.
Boomer White dashed in from left field to make a stabbing catch on a shallow fly just beyond the infield for the first out. Teakell then forced a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning. Teakell, who earned his second save, made a quick decision to let the ground ball go by him on the mound to allow second baseman Garrett Crain to start the double play.
Crain made several defensive gems in a game filled with them from both teams.
With TCU leading 1-0 in the fifth, Keaton Jones laid down a perfect bunt on a suicide squeeze to easily score Jerrick Suiter. Suiter led off the inning with a walk, stole second, and moved to third on Crain’s groundout.
The Frogs added a run each in the eighth and ninth, both coming on sacrifice flies from Cody Jones and Dylan Fitzgerald. In both innings, the leadoff man reached on a single, moved to second on a sacrifice and stole third.
TCU had a season-high three sacrifice flies and four sac bunts.
“For a while there I was curious to see how many runs we could score without getting a hit,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle joked.
“It’s all about execution when you’re facing a good pitching staff like Tech’s. Same thing with Texas [from last weekend]. We aren’t a team that’s going to bang the ball around the ballpark, so when we get opportunities we have to execute.”
Jordan Kipper (6-2) gave TCU another strong start, holding Tech to four hits and no walks in 6 2/3 innings. He retired 11 consecutive batters from the second through the fifth inning before Anthony Lyons led off the sixth with a single to left.
Kipper retired the next three batters, including the top two in the order. Young replaced Kipper with a runner on first and two outs in the seventh and forced a flyout to end the inning.
Kipper hasn’t allowed a run in 18 consecutive innings during his last three starts.
It was TCU’s fourth shutout in five games and 10th of the season, one shy of the school record of 11 set in 1972.
Two great defensive plays in the fourth, first by Cody Jones, who closed fast on a sinking liner, and then Crain, who made a diving stop in the hole toward first prevented a Red Raiders rally.
Kipper struck out Eric Gutierrez looking to end the inning. Tech pitcher Jonny Drozd made a circus catch in self-defense on a line drive off Kevin Cron’s bat to start the seventh. Cron doubled in the second, moved to third on Fitzgerald’s sac-bunt and scored on Suiter’s sac fly in foul territory in right to give TCU a 1-0 lead.
“We’re all feeling really good,” Suiter said. “Tonight we played really fundamental baseball and that’s what led to the win.”
Keaton Jones is tied with Kyle Bacak for the team lead with 10 sacrifice bunts.
“That’s the name of the game right now. We have to execute in order to win,” Jones said. “I think that is the difference in our season so far.
“At the beginning of the season we didn’t execute very well at all. That’s why we were losing a lot of close games against a lot of people we shouldn’t have lost to.”