A team’s Tuesday night starter isn’t usually the kind of pitcher that takes the ball in Game 1 of a postseason tournament.
But TCU right-hander Jordan Kipper isn’t a typical Tuesday starter, as Baylor can attest.
Kipper, a junior college transfer who gave the Horned Frogs a steady diet of strong midweek starts throughout the season, opened the Big 12 Conference tournament with a gem against Baylor on Wednesday afternoon.
The junior held Baylor scoreless on three hits over seven innings in TCU’s 8-5 win at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
The No. 2-seeded Horned Frogs (39-15) advance to play sixth-seeded West Virginia (28-24) at 4 p.m. Thursday. TCU’s Preston Morrison (8-3), who was named the Big 12 Pitcher of the Year, will get the start. Lefty Ross Vance (3-3) will start for the Mountaineers.
“I know a lot of schools call it that, like he’s a second-class citizen, but he’s not, at least not on our team,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said about the “Tuesday starter” tag. “Jordan could easily pitch in our weekend rotation and we feel like if he’s back next year he will. We had 100 percent confidence in him.”
Kipper (8-2) struck out seven, including the final two batters with the bases loaded in the seventh. With the win, Kipper now has a better record than TCU’s three weekend starters, who are all 8-3.
“TCU didn’t sandbag it today,” Baylor coach Steve Smith said. “They threw a guy out there that they had all the confidence in the world in. His numbers support that. And he backed them up.”
Baylor’s Dillon Newman (5-4) took the look after allowing four runs on six hits and three walks in five innings. Newman beat TCU last Thursday after holding the Frogs to one earned run on five hits.
TCU’s offense, however, was hardly fooled in the tournament opener. Every position player collected at least one hit, except for Dylan Fitzgerald, whose sinking liner to left field was ruled an error. Five players had at least two hits, including Cody Jones, who was 3-for-4 with a double and a walk.
The Frogs scored twice in the first inning after Jones led off with a walk and Derek Odell doubled down the third-base line. Boomer White caught the Bears off guard with a bunt single towards third, which scored Jones. Odell scored on a sacrifice fly by Garrett Crain. Bear’s center fielder Logan Brown made a shoe string catch and then doubled up White, who left second base not realizing that Brown had made the catch. Odell’s run counted because he scored before the third out was recorded.
TCU added runs in the third and fourth innings on RBI singles from Odell and Jerrick Suiter. The Frogs added three more runs on five hits in the sixth and forced Baylor to its bullpen. Fitzgerald’s single to left scored Kevin Cron and Keaton Jones’ single up the middle scored Crain and Suiter. Keaton Jones led the Frogs with three RBIs on two hits.
Kipper came out of the bullpen last week and held Baylor scoreless for 4 2/3 innings. It was more of the same on Wednesday.
“We didn’t do much with him then either,” Smith said. “I think he’s really good. That’s another reason why I think they’re a national seed. You’ve got a No. 4 in him that’s really, qualitatively, going to match up well with a whole lot of people’s Nos. 1 and 2s.
Baylor (24-30) scored a run in the eighth against reliever Brian Trieglaff and added four runs in the ninth against pitcher Mitchell Traver, Riley Ferrell came on to get the final two outs to earn his 12th save.
The Bears play Kansas at 9 a.m. Thursday. The No. 3-seeded Jayhawks (34-23) lost the tournament opener to the Mountaineers Wednesday morning 10-9 after blowing an 8-2 lead.