Give the TCU hitters credit.
Texas A&M did — especially to Luken Baker.
“I thought it was a pretty good pitch, but I left it up, and he made me pay,” A&M starter Brigham Hill said of the ball that Baker hit for a three-run home run in the third inning, which got TCU rolling to an 8-2 victory in Game 1 of a Super Regional series at Blue Bell Park.
It was one of 10 hits for the Horned Frogs on Friday night, including doubles from Cam Warner and Ryan Merrill. Merrill’s two-out double in the fifth inning against reliever Mitchell Kilkenny scored two runs, coming after Dane Steinhagen had walked against reliever Corbin Martin.
Give the TCU hitters credit. They did a great job competing with two strikes, fouled off pitches, stayed in the at-bat.
Texas A&M coach Rob Childress
“Give the TCU hitters credit,” A&M coach Rob Childress said. “They did a great job competing with two strikes, fouled off pitches, stayed in the at-bat. Each reliever that we went to, they didn’t get the first guy that they were brought in to face. Neither one of them were able to do that. Give TCU credit for that.”
Warner, Baker, Merrill and Evan Skoug each had two hits, and TCU hitters drew five walks and a hit-by-pitch. Only two struck out.
The result for TCU is a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series. TCU will send right-hander Mitchell Traver against A&M right-hander Kyle Simonds in Game 2, scheduled for 8 p.m. Saturday.
“We’re coming out the same way we did today. We’re going to play sound baseball, do what we need to do to come out with the win,” Baker said. “A&M’s going to come out with high intensity again. We’re just going to have to play good baseball like we did today.”
TCU is 9-0 when designated hitter Luken Baker hits a home run. He has hit safely in nine consecutive games and has reached base in 33 straight.
Baker said he felt at home in pregame, remembering the sights and sounds he grew accustomed to growing up near Houston and going to A&M games.
“I was loving it because it was all the students doing the same chants and stuff that I heard growing up,” Baker said. “But once the game started and the lights were on, it was go time, and I wasn’t really hearing much of it.”
Baker’s home run in the fifth inning provided a 5-2 lead that was enough for redshirt freshman Jared Janczak. The right-hander pitched into the eighth, and the bullpen got the final four outs.
“Jared was outstanding, especially in the middle innings,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “He had the ball elevated early in the game. They put a lot of good swings on him. But once he settled in and got the ball sinking, got the ball going down, he pitched really well.”
5Career starts for TCU right-hander Jared Janczak, in which he is 2-0 with a 2.67 ERA, 23 strikeouts and eight walks in 30.1 innings. In NCAA postseason, he is 2-0, 3.38 with 11 strikeouts and four walks in 13.1 innings.
Baker went 2-for-4 with a walk. Since the regular season ended, he is 22-for-36 with five home runs, 14 runs batted in, seven walks and 12 runs scored.
With runners on first and second in the third inning in a 2-2 game, he said he was trying to do “anything to drive in that run and not hit into a double play.”
“I got a pitch that I put a good swing on,” he said. “I didn’t know it right off the bat, but once I saw the fielder’s back turned, I sort of had a feeling. And once it got out, I was pretty juiced.”
Childress said Baker is a tough out because of his plate discipline.
“As a freshman, he’s got a very advanced approach,” the A&M coach said. “He’s very tough to pitch to. Doesn’t chase pitches out of the zone. His approach is very much that of a junior or senior in college. I think that’s the thing that sets him apart. Obviously he’s got strength and bat speed, but he’s hard to put away because he doesn’t chase.”
Friday night, that could have applied to all of the TCU lineup.