Steven Branscombe, USA Today Sports

Traver exits early, offense explodes as Frogs defeat Rice 13-5

No. 1 TCU had no trouble with Rice on Tuesday night despite an early pitching change.

It was business as usual once again for No. 1 TCU Tuesday night, as the Horned Frogs crossed the plate a season-high 13 times in an eight-run victory over the Rice University Owls at Lupton Stadium in Fort Worth.

TCU starting pitcher Mitchell Traver, who missed the majority of the 2016 season due to a muscle injury, was pulled due to injury just two outs into the first inning when the game was still scoreless, with freshman Jake Eissler coming in out of relief.

TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle said that Traver felt a pull in his back before coming out of the game. Schlossnagle said Traver will have an MRI to determine the cause, possibly putting him out of the rotation for the next two weeks.

The abrupt pitching change wouldn’t faze the Frogs, who only surrendered one run in the first seven innings while plating 10 of their own within the first two.

The RBI party for TCU began in the first inning with a two-run blast from catcher Evan Skoug over the left field wall. Several batters later, second baseman Cam Warner added two more runs for the Frogs when he doubled in outfielders Josh Watson and Nolan Brown, putting TCU up 4-0 by the time the first inning came to a close.

The Frogs picked up right where they left off in the bottom of the second, scoring six runs, three of which were unearned, with the assistance of two Rice errors. By the time the inning wrapped up, one hour after the first pitch, TCU had already amassed a double-digit lead of 10-0.

The Owls would finally get on the board with a solo-homer from left fielder Chace Sarchet in the top of the third, but wouldn’t score again until the eighth inning when Rice plated four runs off reliever Trey Morris in his collegiate debut, three of which resulted from bases-loaded error in center field that cleared the bases.

That however wouldn’t be until after the Frogs had already tacked on three more runs between the fourth and seventh innings to pad to the lead. Ryan Merrill hit a sac-fly to score a run in the fourth, followed by an Austen Wade solo-shot in the fifth to put TCU up 12-1 as Wade extended his hitting-streak to seven games. Watson recorded an RBI single in the seventh for TCU’s 13th and final run of the night, en route to his first multi-hit and multi-RBI game of the season.

With Traver making an unexpected exit, it was a busy night for TCU on the mound as well. Eissler threw for 2 1/3 innings before Haylen Green entered the game to retire the side in both the fourth and fifth innings. After appearances from Ryan Burnett, Cal Coughlin and Morris, Austin Boyles finally came in in the bottom of the ninth, retiring the side for the save and the win. When it was all said and done, the Frogs had used seven pitchers on the night.

The win moved the Frogs to 7-1 on the season, with the lone loss coming against Arizona State last Friday, 13-9. They’ll now be shifting the focus to their biggest challenge yet this year, as they head to Minute-Maid Park in Houston this weekend for the Shriners Hospital for Children College Classic. The Frogs will face off against three SEC teams in the top 15: Ole Miss, LSU, and Texas A&M, with the first game set for 7:30 p.m. against the No. 4 Tigers on Friday night.

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