Steven Branscombe, USA Today Sports

Frogs defeat Baylor 9-4 in absence of Janczak

The TCU bats got going and the Frogs beat Baylor on Friday night, 9-4.

When it comes to game ones, Jared Janczak is typically the man you will see on the mound for the Horned Frogs. TCU’s ace went down unexpectedly this week with shoulder soreness, but that didn’t stop freshman pitcher Nick Lodolo and the Frogs from opening up an 8-0 lead Friday night at Lupton Stadium en route to a 9-4 victory over the Baylor Bears.

Lodolo, routinely the No. 2 man in TCU’s rotation, went six innings with five strikeouts, only allowing one earned run as the Horned Frogs made quick work of their in-state rival in the series opener. After striking twice in the first inning on a walked-in run and sac-fly, Luken Baker broke the game wide open for TCU with a bases-clearing single in the fourth, part of a 5-run inning for the Frogs that made it an 8-0 game.

Five innings later, after a late Baylor rally and a brief downpour in the eighth inning, it was TCU reliever Cal Coughlin who struck out Aaron Dodson to complete a four-out save and give the Frogs a five-run victory in the series opener.

“It was a big night for all of us,” TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “Emotionally, when you lose a guy like Janczak, everybody feels it. I thought one of the biggest plays in the game may have been that double play ball in the first inning.”

Lodolo got off to a shaky start in the first frame, allowing a lead-off single and a four-pitch walk to the first two Baylor batters, respectively. But a Shea Langeliers double play followed by a groundout got the freshman starter out of the jam without any damage.

“Once he got that ground ball he really caught a rhythm, made his pitches, used the ballpark, and of course he had a chance to pitch with the lead,” Schlossnagle said. “It allowed him to become more aggressive, so hopefully he’ll learn from that and be ready to go again next week."

And getting out of dicey situations may have been just the theme for TCU, as Baylor stranded 12 runners on 13 hits. Lodolo said Friday’s outing was all about setting the right pace.

“I know I hadn’t been pitching my best so I just came out attacking. It was good to play the “strike game” and get ahead of hitters tonight,” Lodolo said. “I’d like to see the guy (Janczak) healthy, but when you get moved up to Friday, you have to set the tone, so it did motivate me.”

Minutes after the critical double play ball, the Frogs responded with a lead-off double by Austen Wade to spark a two-run inning for the early lead, the beginning of a 3-3 night for the outfielder that saw him drive in one RBI on a sac-fly.

“He’s been the most consistent offensive player on our team and you know he’s going to have a good at bat,” Schlossnagle said of Wade. “He made some great adjustments this week."

The first inning was just the beginning of a 12 hit night for the Frogs. After extending the lead to 3-0 in the second with Wades’ sac-fly, the Frogs erupted for five runs in the fourth inning, prompted by back-to-back singles from Cam Warner and Nolan Brown to begin the bottom half of the frame.

An Elliott Barzilli single gave TCU a 4-0 lead two batters later before Wade and Conner Wanhanen drew walks to load the bases. That set the stage for Luken Baker to clear the bases on a single to left field, aided by an error from left fielder Tucker Johnson that let Baker scoot into second. Evan Skoug made it an 8-0 game with a hopper into right field on the next at-bat.

The explosive fifth inning chased Baylor starter Nick Lewis, who fell to 4-4 on the season after allowing eight earned runs over eight hits.

The Bears finally got on the board in the sixth courtesy of a Dodson single and scored three more off the TCU bullpen in a rain soaked eighth inning. After loading the bases, Jake Eissler made it an 8-2 game when he hit Sean McLean. Coughlin entered the contest only to surrender an immediate two-run single to Johnson, cutting the TCU lead in half.

The Frogs added some insurance though when Michael Landestoy connected for a pinch-hit single off Baylor reliever Drew Robertson in the bottom half of the frame, scoring Wade to put TCU back up by five. When the ninth inning rolled around, Coughlin had no issue retiring the side to record the save and the win.

“It’s big,” Lodolo said of the win. “Last weekend was the first time we had been down in a Big 12 series. We bounced back Saturday but couldn’t finish it off. When you do this, you now have a chance to get the sweep on Sunday.”

TCU improved to 29-7 with the win as Lodolo improved his personal record to 4-1 on the season. The Frogs will pick up the action against Baylor right back at Lupton Stadium for game two on Saturday at 3 p.m. Mitchell Traver will be getting the start as TCU looks to hit the 30-win mark on the season.

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