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Eighth inning rally propels Frogs to 7-5 comeback win over Oklahoma State

It’s often said that playing from behind won’t sustain itself forever, but No. 5 TCU pulled off another comeback victory Friday night at Lupton Stadium, scoring four times in the eighth inning to defeat Oklahoma State, 7-5.

FORT WORTH – It’s often said that playing from behind won’t sustain itself forever, but No. 5  TCU pulled off another comeback victory Friday night at Lupton Stadium, scoring four times in the eighth inning to defeat Oklahoma State, 7-5.

Three TCU players homered in the win over the Cowboys, including solo shots from designated hitter Luken Baker and center fielder Nolan Brown that kick-started the eighth inning rally. A two-out double to left-center field by Austen Wade later in the inning scored two more runs, capping off the comeback that sent the Horned Frogs off victorious in the opening game of the weekend series.

“I’m really happy for those guys and I thought we put a lot of really good swings on Buffett early in the game,” TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “We stayed close enough and got some big hits…the home runs and obviously Austen staying on that ball and hitting it the other way.”

The Frogs were unable to get on the board against Cowboys starting pitcher Tyler Buffett through the first four innings. TCU finally found some offense when catcher Evan Skoug smacked a three-run homer to right field in the fifth that erased a 2-0 deficit and kicked started the late game slugfest for TCU. Buffett, one of the top starting pitchers for Oklahoma State, finished the night with six strikeouts and two walks while allowing six hits and three earned runs over six innings pitched.

TCU starting pitcher Jared Janczak, coming off a near no-hit performance against Kansas last Saturday, got off to a relatively shaky start in the contest, allowing back to back singles to start game in the first before a run scored on a fielder’s choice. Janczak surrendered a second run in the fourth inning after allowing a single to Garrett McCain, who scored on an ensuing throwing error by Skoug to put TCU down 2-0. Janczak threw five innings before he was relieved by Sean Wymer, striking out five while allowing four hits and three earned runs.

After the Frogs stranded two runners on two occasions in the first four innings, the bats came through in the fifth inning when first baseman Connor Wanhanen and Wade connected for back-to-back singles to lead off the inning. That set up the stage for Skoug to launch Buffett’s breaking ball on a 1-2 count over the wall into the right field bleachers, giving the Frogs their first lead of the night at 3-2.

“I was feeling really confident,” Skoug said. “I hit a lot of breaking balls off the machine this week, and it was really nice to see the work pay off.”

Skoug added that the blast was just what the team may have needed to get its mojo back at the batter’s box, having been held to two runs or less three times in the past two weeks.

“I think my hit and the other guys’ hits will catapult us to being the offensive force that we know we can be,” Skoug said. “We just need to start competing more and hitting those before its ‘clutch time.’”

The lead was short lived though, as Wymer surrendered a single to the first Oklahoma State batter he faced – catcher Colin Simpson, that knotted the game at 3 apiece in the top of the sixth. Two innings later in the eighth, the Cowboys regained the lead when Jon Littell connected for a two-out, two run single that put Oklahoma State up 5-3.

“Lupton Magic” was still aplenty for TCU, however. When the bottom of the inning rolled around, Baker led it off with a monster solo shot to right field off reliever Carson Teel, bringing the Frogs within one run. Two batters later, Brown followed suit with another bomb to right, clearing the bleachers and tying the game at 5.

“It helped the team and it helped my confidence a lot,” Brown said of his home run. “Earlier in the game I was missing pitches and battling to get back in the counts, but not really getting what I wanted. I liked that one a lot.”

With two outs, it seemed the inning would come to an end when Ryan Merrill struck out swinging, but the ball got passed the plate, allowing Merrill to arrive at first safely. After Michael Landestoy was intentionally walked, Wade proved to be the hero when he smashed the first pitch of the at-bat to left field, rolling all the way to the wall and brining home both runners home, putting the Frogs ahead for good.

“Austen’s been doing that all year,” Schlossnagle said. “He’s stayed on baseballs and has really been the best hitter – the most consistent guy making contact and using the whole field to hit.”

Holding a 7-5 lead, closer Durbin Feltman came into pitch for TCU in the ninth, recording the three out save while reliever Haylen Green was credited with the win.

Though just one of three games against the Cowboys over the weekend, Schlossnagle said winning the opening contest is a major boost of confidence for him and the team.

“They’ve always had our number in terms of series,” Schlossnagle said. “It’s nice to get this one, especially when you’re behind and then come back to take the lead. Our schedule that we’ve played so far also really helped us tonight – playing against good teams and good pitchers.”

Brown agreed with his coach on the importance of winning game one.

“It’s huge,” Brown said. “It’s nice to win on a Friday in front of a home crowd. Going into tomorrow we have a little momentum.”

The Frogs will get right back at it against Oklahoma State on Saturday night for game two of the series. First pitch is set for 7 p.m. at Lupton Stadium.


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