The No. 1 Horned Frogs took care of business in their season opener against Penn State Friday night, beating the Nittany Lions 6-3 in front of a packed house at Lupton Stadium in Fort Worth.
Sophomore starting pitcher Jared Janczak was brilliant for TCU during the first six innings of the contest, only allowing one hit and striking out six while facing a minimum 18 batters. He was pulled for reliever Sean Wymer after loading up the bases with no outs in the seventh inning, finishing the night with a total of two hits and two earned runs over 70 pitches.
“Janczak I thought was outstanding,” TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “He was throwing quality pitches in the bottom of the strike zone and he had them swinging early.”
The Frogs built a 6-0 lead on just two hits in the entire contest by the sixth inning before Penn State cut it in half with a three-run seventh. Wymer held on to the lead for TCU though by retiring the side in the eighth before closer Durbin Feltman sealed the deal for the Frogs in the ninth.
“The theme of tonight’s game was free bases,” Schlossnagle said of the two-hit, six run performance. “We ended up giving up some free bases to them but we scored two runs in the fourth without the ball ever leaving the infield.”
After a 1-2-3 first inning for both Janczak and Penn State starting pitcher Sal Biasi, the Frogs struck first when center fielder Nolan Brown hit a double to deep left, scoring left fielder Josh Watson after Penn State shortstop Joe Weisenseel booted the cut-off throw. Brown advanced to third on the play and would score on an ensuing Cam Warner ground-out to make it a 2-0 TCU lead.
Janzcak would go on to retire the first 10 batters he faced before allowing a double in the fourth to Penn State third-baseman Connor Klemman, but Klemman was thrown out trying to reach for third after a magnificent throw from Brown in left field.
The Frogs added to their lead in the bottom of the inning after loading up the bases with no outs. Catcher Evan Skoug scored on a fielder’s choice before Luken Baker came home on a wild pitch two batters later, making it 4-0 for the Frogs. After a scoreless fifth, TCU made it 6-0 in the sixth on a two-out Connor Wanhanen single after loading up the bases once again.
“We talk all the time about how situational hitting wins baseball games,” Wanhanen said. “With two outs and runners on I’m just trying to pass the torch onto the next guy.”
Penn State immediately answered the bell however, loading the bases with no outs to begin the seventh inning and consequently chasing Janczak out of the game. Schlossnagle said Janczak’s shaky seventh, in which he hit a batter and walked two, may have been attributed to the long bottom of the sixth.
“I don’t know what happened exactly,” Schlossnagle said. “I think maybe just sitting over here on a cold night may have caused him to stiffen up a little bit. He did a great job though and gave us way more than I expected to on the opening night of the season.”
With Wymer taking over and the bases juiced, the Nittany Lions scored three runs on a single and two fielders’ choices to make it 6-3. It wouldn’t faze him though, retiring the side in the eighth before Feltman took care of business with a 1-2-3 ninth to close out the opening-night victory.
“He [Wymer] did a great job,” Schlossnagle said. “He didn’t panic. He just kept filling up the strike zone and we made some great plays.”
As for Janczak, who worked his way from the bullpen last season to becoming TCU’s No. 1 starter, he said that he felt as if he picked up right where he left off.
“I was thinking in the dugout that I was rolling right along from last year,” Janczak said. “It was a good feeling to get warmed up and as soon as I took the field, I was ready to go.”
While Janczak said it was an honor to receive the top spot in the rotation, he remarked that all the work he put in in the offseason was about more than just trying to be the headliner.
“I’m just trying to help this team pitch,” Janczak. “Wherever he [Schlossnagle] tells me to go, I’ll go and do my best, and things work out from there.”
On Friday, that role was leading the Frogs to victory on the mound, past all the hype and pressure that comes with a No. 1 ranking.
“It kind of felt like a regional game,” Janczak said. “The atmosphere was great and the fans were awesome. It’s just the first of the year and we have a lot more to go.”
The Frogs and Nittany Lions get right back at it for game two of the series tomorrow in Fort Worth, with the first pitch set for 2 p.m. as Brian Howard gets the start for TCU on the mound.