TCU’s hopes of winning an outright Big 12 title were dashed at Baylor Ballpark on Thursday night.
Baylor’s 6-3 win over the Horned Frogs, coupled with Oklahoma State’s 4-2 win over Oklahoma, ensures the Cowboys can’t finish any lower than tied with TCU atop the Big 12.
OSU (40-13, 17-5 in the Big 12) owns the tiebreaker on TCU, so the Cowboys will earn the league’s top seed in the Big 12 tournament on Wednesday-May 25 in Oklahoma City no matter what transpires the next two days.
The Frogs (36-15, 15-7), who trail OSU by two games, can’t finish any lower than tied for second with Kansas, which has concluded league play at 15-9.
“[Winning the Big 12 was] a goal we set for ourselves at the beginning of the season and we wanted to come out here and sweep and give ourselves an opportunity to do that, but we didn’t get it done tonight and Oklahoma State did,” TCU slugger Kevin Cron said.
“We’re going to come out and hopefully take two and see what happens up there. All we can control is winning these next two and moving from there.”
Perhaps of more concern at the moment for 19th-ranked TCU, which has most likely cemented an NCAA Regional hosting bid barring a total collapse, is the command of pitcher Brandon Finnegan.
The Bears (24-27, 8-13) jumped on Finnegan for five hits in 3 1/3 innings in the lefty’s second start since missing a week with soreness in his throwing shoulder.
The former Fort Worth Southwest High School star looked sharper than his last outing, but his command failed him on several two-strike pitches and Baylor hitters made him pay. Finnegan (8-3) took the loss after allowing six runs (five earned) on five hits, while striking out three and walking one.
“They did a good job against Finnegan. I thought he was OK, but every time he made a bad pitch they made him pay for it,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “When you don’t pitch for a couple of weeks your command can leave you a little bit. I thought he was better today.”
The Bears took a 3-2 lead in the second after an error and a walk put two on before Aaron Dodson’s three-run homer sailed over the wall in left. It was the switch-hitter’s second homer of the season and his first batting right-handed. It came on a 1-2 slider that Finnegan left up in the zone.
Baylor added three more runs in the fourth. After a leadoff double by Dodson was followed by three one-out singles to score two runs Finnegan was replaced by Jordan Kipper. A sacrifice bunt from Brett Doe scored another run before Kipper forced a groundout to end the inning.
Baylor starting pitcher Dillon Newman (5-3) held the Frogs to two runs (one earned) over six innings. He struck out three and walked one.
TCU scored one run in each of the first two innings, but failed to push runs across late with the bases loaded. TCU loaded the bases with one out in the seventh, but Garrett Crain smacked the first pitch he saw back to Baylor pitcher Doug Ashby, who started an inning-ending 1-2-3 double play.
TCU loaded the bases again in the eighth with one out with Cody Jones at the plate. Jones’ sacrifice fly to center field scored Dylan Fitzgerald to make it 6-3, but Derek Odell, on a 3-1 count, grounded out to short with runners on first and second to end the inning.
“We just didn’t get the big hit when it mattered. That’s something we’ve been good at lately and hopefully we can do it again down the stretch,” Cron said.