The month of April has been very kind to TCU. That’s mostly because Horned Frogs pitchers have been especially cruel to opposing batters.
The trend continued Sunday as TCU tossed its 12th shutout and sixth in the last eight games with a 3-0 win against Cal State Northridge. The 12 shutouts are the most in program history, breaking the 1972 record of 11.
The Frogs, winners of eight straight, have held opponents to three runs in the last 72 1/3 innings, an astonishing string of pitching that has ignited a 15-1 record in April.
“We’re pitching like crazy. It’s just one of those stretches,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “We’re pitching and playing defense. It’s awful hard to lose a game when you pitch at the level we’re pitching and the level we’re playing defense. When the other team can’t score, it’s hard to lose.”
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Former Southlake Carroll star Tyler Alexander (5-3) held the Matadors (15-28) to four hits in seven innings of work. He struck out five and walked none. The freshman faced just two batters over the minimum.
It was the left-hander’s second start since spending a couple weeks in the bullpen to correct his arm speed on off-speed pitches. It seems to have worked. He’s allowed just one run in his 12 innings since returning to the starting rotation.
“My arm felt good and I was able to keep pitches down,” said Alexander, whose changeup was especially effective. “I got a lot of outs on it. Today was a pretty good day.”
There have been a lot of good days for TCU (30-13) recently. The Frogs are 17-3 since March 23 and will likely move into the top 25 of all the major polls Monday. The Frogs’ ratings percentage index (which helps seed teams for the postseason) has climbed to 14th and still rising.
“We’re having a lot of fun and everything is seeming to click like it was back then,” said Kevin Cron, referring to TCU’s hot streak that took them to the NCAA Super Regionals in 2012. “We were kind of letting it all ride and see what happens. And that’s kind of what we’re doing now. We’re just playing our game and it’s been working for us.”
Twice Northridge threatened, but Riley Ferrell was able to pitch out of the jam.
In the eighth, Ferrell replaced Travis Evans with runners on the corners and two outs and struck out lead-off hitter Ranny Lowe to end the inning. In the ninth, Ferrell loaded the bases with an infield hit, his own error and a walk. But he struck out two of the final three batters to earn his 10th save, the most for a TCU pitcher since Sam Demel’s nine in 2007.
Northridge made several defensive plays on well-hit balls with runners on, forcing TCU to stick to working runners around.
Garrett Crain’s bases-loaded walk in the first scored Derek Odell after John Salas, who walked two, hit a batter and failed to make the pickup on Boomer White’s sacrifice bunt.
In the third, Odell led off with a single, moved to second on White’s bunt and scored on Cron’s single to left. Dylan Fitzgerald led off the fourth with a double and moved to third on a wild pitch before scoring on Dylan Delso’s sacrifice fly.
Meanwhile, Alexander was cruising on the mound. It was his longest outing since going seven against Dartmouth on March 16.
“You’ve got a bunch of guys going out there confidently,” pitching coach Kirk Saarloos said. “Our offense is scoring runs. We’re pitching with a lead, and they’re not afraid of contact because our defense plays so good.”