In danger of losing its Big 12 opener behind more sloppy defense and pitching, No. 8-ranked TCU’s bats saved the day with seven runs in the eighth inning to charge back from a three-run deficit and defeat West Virginia 10-6 on Friday night at Lupton Stadium.
For most of the game, the Horned Frogs (14-3, 1-0 Big 12) couldn’t get out of their own way as West Virginia used three errors and four early walks — six in all — to take a 3-0 lead through four innings and then 6-3 after six.
Obviously you’ve got to play a full nine innings and this team certainly knows how to do that.
TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle
But TCU sent 11 batters to the plate in the eighth against two West Virginia relievers. Josh Watson doubled in a run before Elliott Barzilli crushed his fifth homer of the season, a two-run blast off Conner Dotson that tied the game at 6-6. From there, the floodgates opened. The Mountaineers’ third pitcher, Michael Grove, who took the loss, walked in the go-ahead run, Evan Skoug grounded in a run and Luken Baker, who started the game on the mound for TCU, singled in two more runs for the final margin.
“Obviously you’ve got to play a full nine innings and this team certainly knows how to do that,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “I’m the one that has to get used to winning in a different way. The pitching and defense is not the style that we want to play, but we have an explosive offensive team and that’s fun to watch. And it’s fun to know you’re never too far away from a crooked number in an inning.
“But at some point, at some point, we’re going to have to pitch.”
Baker, TCU’s 6-foot-4, 245-pound freshman, went five innings, giving up three runs, but only one was earned. Still, Baker, who entered the game with a 0.84 ERA through four starts, couldn’t blame it all on sloppy fielding. A walk, to go along with an error in the first, led to a two runs on a hard-hit double by designated hitter Shaun Corso.
West Virginia’s Jackson Cramer then cranked a 405-foot homer to right in the third for a 3-0 lead. Baker walked three and struck out four while throwing 92 pitches on a rare chilly night.
Big 12 standings
Meanwhile, Mountaineers starter Chad Donato, seeking his first win in four starts this season, cruised through four innings, striking out eight and allowing only one runner to reach second.
That all changed in the fifth as TCU right fielder Austen Wade doubled in the Frogs’ first run, and second baseman Cam Warner tied it with a two-run double. Warner, who drove in three runs, nearly put TCU ahead in the inning, but he was called out sliding at the plate after a throwing error.
TCU reliever Jared Janczak couldn’t keep the Mountaineers off the board, allowing three runs, all earned, on four hits and a walk in one inning. The frame was reminiscent of the game to that point for TCU as a walk, a third error of the game and then a failed tag during a rundown set up runners at second and third with nobody out.
A double and single put West Virginia up 6-3, but Janczek was spared his second loss of the season.
Sean Wymer got the win, allowing one hit and two walks in the seventh and eighth. Durbin Feltman pitched a perfect ninth with two strikeouts to send the home fans home happy.