TCU scored five runs in the bottom of the ninth, including a walk-off home run by catcher Alex Isola, as the Horned Frogs stormed back to defeat Kansas 7-4 in a Big 12 Conference game Saturday afternoon at Lupton Stadium.
It was the second walk-off homer in as many days for TCU (28-20, 10-10 Big 12) and the fifth long ball of the season for Isola.
“I worked it to three and one, and took a pitch that I thought was ball four, but I wanted to hit anyway,” said Isola, who broke a 4-4 tie with his three-run blast down the left-field line. “He left one elevated, and we knew he threw ninety-four percent fastballs, so I knew what I was getting with him.
“I just tried to put my best swing on it and stay short, and a good thing happened. I knew it was gone off the bat.”
Conner Shepherd walked off Friday’s win with a solo shot on the first pitch of the ninth. The Frogs have homered in six straight games.
Andrew Keefer, who also homered on Friday, tied the game at four, lacing a double to left center to score Jake Guenther and Austin Henry, who had doubled and walked, respectively, to lead off the ninth.
“I was looking for something a little bit lower in the zone to make sure I got on top of the ball and drove it,” said Keefer who, along with Isola, had three RBIs in the game. “I’m finally finding my swing, even though it’s a little late in the season. But better late than never.”
Kansas (27-24, 8-12) took a 4-2 lead with two unearned runs off of TCU starter Charles King in a controversial top of the eighth.
King, who had his third strong start in his past four games, allowed a double to Jayhawks center fielder Rudy Karre to lead off the eighth.
After a pop out to first, King appeared to have struck out Kansas leading hitter Jaxx Groshans swinging, but the ball got away from Isola, and Karre scored all the way from second after the play was ruled a strikeout and passed ball, and not a hit batter or foul ball.
King collided with Karre on the play at the plate, trying to grab the throw from Isola, but was fine, even though he was relieved after the play.
Haylen Green subbed for King and got the next batter to dribble a ball in front of the plate, but Isola’s throw pulled pulled Guenther off the first base bag to extend the inning.
Cal Coughlin came in for Green and induced a double-play ground ball to second, but Adam Oviedo’s throw was wide to first, allowing Groshans to score and Kansas to take a 4-2 lead.
Coughlin (2-0) got the win after an inning and two thirds of one-hit relief.
“My cutter wasn’t there for most of the game, but I did battle with a cutter and a two-seam fastball,” said King, who went seven and one-third innings, allowing four runs, two earned, on seven hits with four strikeouts and no walks. “It was awesome to see Haylen and Cal come in and get huge outs for us when we needed it.”
King had thrown complete games in two of his past three starts, giving up single runs in each of the two complete games.
“You can almost feel it in the air that it’s coming,” said King of the late home runs the past two days. “Everyone gets pumped up and starts talking about how it’s going to be a walk-off right here. When that kind of energy starts buzzing in the ballpark, it’s hard to stop us.”
Guenther has now reached base safely in all 48 of TCU’s games this season, adding to his streak, which is currently the second-longest active streak in the nation.
Henry walked and singled in the game, his 20th consecutive game to reach base.
“Lupton magic is real,” said Isola. “I love this place. The fans just make it special.”
The Horned Frogs and Jayhawks will play the finale of the three-game series at 1 p.m. Sunday.