No. 1 TCU launched three home runs in four at-bats in the bottom of the ninth inning, but it would not be enough for the Frogs to overcome once an eight-run deficit, losing to the Arizona State Sun Devils 13-9 at Lupton Stadium in Fort Worth Friday night.
It was the first loss of the season for TCU, who began 2017 a perfect 4-0 after sweeping Penn State in a three-game series last weekend before beating UTA in Arlington on Tuesday night. Though the Frogs scored at least nine runs for the third time in four games, TCU only managed two runs and two hits through the first seven innings while the Sun Devils put up nine unanswered runs from the top of the fifth to the top of the eighth.
The Frogs had plenty of self-inflicted damage as well Friday night, committing four errors in the loss and three leading to unearned runs for the Sun Devils. The Frogs also walked in a run in the sixth when Austin Boyles was on the mound in relief.
“Obviously poor defense and giving up extra bases stands out to me,” TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “We played very, very poorly, but at the same time they played great.”
TCU starting pitcher Brian Howard fell to 1-1 on the season with the loss, surrendering all of his three earned runs in the fifth after not allowing a hit through the first four innings. He finished the night with five strikeouts and one walk over 77 pitches in five innings.
“He had a good first four innings but I thought he was overthrowing….pitching behind in the count a lot,” Schlossnagle said. “They had some really impressive hitters and with the way the ballpark was playing, you can’t get behind in the count.”
Eli Lingos meanwhile picked up the win for ASU to improve to 2-0, allowing two hits while recording eight strikeouts over 101 pitches in six innings.
With the loss now behind the Frogs, here are some of the most critical moments that affected Friday night’s contest.
Moments that mattered
Despite struggling to find the strike zone at times, Brian Howard was hitless entering the fifth inning as TCU led 1-0, but the Frogs’ edge would vanish for good when Howard allowed a lead-off home run to designated-hitter Tyler Williams, tying the game at one.
After allowing a single to Jeremy McCuin two batters later, Howard would wind up hitting outfielder Hunter Bishop on the next at bat, effectively allowing McCuin to score when Gabe Canning doubled one batter later. ASU would never lose sight of the lead, scoring a third run before the inning ended.
With the Frogs already down 4-2 entering the inning after a walked-in run added to ASU’s lead in the sixth, TCU let the Sun Devils pad their lead right back up by surrendering two unearned runs in the top of the seventh. The inning began with what would have been a routine strikeout when Andrew Snow was at the plate, but the third strike got past catcher Evan Skoug, allowing Snow to dart to first base safely.
The miscue would prove to be costly, as Snow would advance to second on a ensuing passed ball before Josh Watson dropped what would have been an inning ending pop-up in left field. Snow scored on the error to make it a 5-2 ASU lead before Tyler Williams kept the top-half going with an RBI single, giving the Sun Devils a 6-2 lead.
The Frogs put together a rally in the bottom of the eighth inning to score three runs, but that wouldn’t be until the Sun Devils had already broken the contest wide open with three runs in the top half make it a 9-2 ballgame.
The Frogs’ bullpen faltered as Haylen Green loaded up the bases, leading to an ensuing sac-fly that brought home another run to give the Sun Devils a 7-2 lead with just one out in the inning. That was just the beginning of a long half inning for TCU, as Skoug threw a one-hopper into the outfield while trying to throw out center fielder Gage Canning as he stole second. Right fielder Myles Denson scored from third base on the error before Canning scooted in safely to third. An ensuing sac-fly made gave ASU a seven-run lead and nine straight unearned runs.
Yet again, TCU’s bullpen wasn’t up for the challenge in the ninth inning, loading the bases a second straight time with no outs before ASU second baseman Carter Aldrete doubled in two runs to put the Sun Devils up 11-2. First baseman Lyle Lin would follow it up with a two-run double the next at-bat, giving ASU its largest lead of the night at 13-5.
The late game runs would turn out to prove even more costly in the final half-frame, as TCU’s bats awoke with home runs from Michael Landestoy, Austin Wade and Luken Baker in a span of four at-bats to cut TCU’s deficit to just four. Chaz Montoya would come into the game to restore order for the Sun Devils though, striking out Evan Skoug and Cam Warner to seal the Frogs’ fate.
The Frogs continue the three-game series against Arizona State at home tomorrow when freshman Nick Lodolo (1-0) is sent to the mound. First pitch is set for 4 p.m. at Lupton Stadium.