For the last three weeks, TCU has been riding high. The Horned Frogs started 12-1 in April and have seen their stock rise in the national polls, and the postseason seemed inevitable.
But much of their postseason success hinges on starting pitcher Brandon Finnegan, who left Friday’s game with Cal State Northridge in the third inning with stiffness in his left throwing shoulder.
TCU (28-13) held on for the 6-2 win behind the relief pitching of Trey Teakell and Alex Young and got more good news when coach Jim Schlossnagle said Finnegan isn’t likely to miss a start.
“Dr. [John] Conway doesn’t think he’ll miss a start,” Schlossnagle said. “We’re just being real cautious. I think it just scared him a little bit. It scared everybody in the ballpark.”
Schlossnagle said Finnegan, who attended Southwest High School, passed every test the trainers gave him after coming out. He later returned to the dugout.
“We’ll evaluate him Monday or Tuesday and keep him on the same throwing program,” Schlossnagle said. “That stressed our bullpen, obviously. We asked a lot of [Teakell] tonight. He battled through it. Both of them did.”
The Frogs again were outhit by their opponent (10-6) but efficiently moved runners over with runs in the first and third innings. Garrett Crain’s home run to right field, the first of his career, gave TCU a 3-1 lead in the sixth. TCU has won six consecutive games and 13 of its last 14. The Frogs are now 13-1 in April, the most wins they’ve had in this month since 2011.
Young and Teakell both had to work out of jams. In the seventh, the Matadors (15-26) had the bases loaded with one out against Young.
Shortstop Keaton Jones couldn’t handle a grounder that potentially could have started an inning-ending double play. A bad hop led to a bobble and a drop before he could make the throw to second, and everyone was safe as Northridge pulled to within 3-2.
On the next play, third baseman Derek Odell made a great stop on a short hop and fired home to catcher Kyle Bacak to get the force out and prevent the tying run from scoring.
“It was a really fast runner at third and he got a really good jump off the bat, so I didn’t know I’d end up getting him or not. But Kyle made a great stretch, and we got him.”
Young, who replaced Teakell to start the sixth, got Dylan Alexander swinging with the bases still loaded to end the inning.
“You’ve got to stay locked in still and not let that bother you,” said Young, who was in the jam after a lead-off walk and hit batter put two on with one out. “Then Derek made that play, and I knew that I was going to get the next guy out.”
TCU added three runs in the bottom of the seventh to lead 6-2 after Cody Jones reached on a fielder’s choice and Odell reached on an infield single. Boomer White’s single to left scored Cody Jones. Odell and White scored from third and second on Kevin Cron’s foul-out to right when outfielder Chester Pak’s throw home sailed high and into TCU’s dugout.
In the fifth, Teakell escaped a jam after two singles gave the Matadors two on with one out. Teakell struck out lead-off hitter Ranny Lowe for the second out and then induced a flyout to end the inning.
Teakell (3-0) earned the win after allowing five hits and a walk in 2 1/3 innings. Young finished the final four innings, allowing a run on four hits and a walk while striking out four.
Finnegan allowed one hit before leaving with two outs in the third.
“It’s always great to win games when you don’t play your absolute best,” Schlossnagle said. “That’s how you put together an outstanding season. At the beginning of the year, if we played like we did tonight, we’d lose for sure. Last year, we’d lose every time. That’s a sign of a good team.”