Matt Jones is the editor of the Hawgs Sports Network. He is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has a bachelor's and master's degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas.
'We got it handed to us pretty good': TCU wallops Arkansas on Day 2
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn walks off the mound after making a pitching change during a game against TCU on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023, in Arlington, Texas.
ARLINGTON, Texas — TCU won a bullpen battle over Arkansas on Saturday night at the College Baseball Showdown.
Playing 20 miles from their home stadium in Fort Worth, the 17th-ranked Horned Frogs defeated the sixth-ranked Razorbacks by a score of 18-6 in front of an announced crowd of 20,295 at Globe Life Field.
TCU (2-0), the favorite during the preseason to win the Big 12, hammered 19 hits, walked 11 times and stole 6 bases in its second consecutive statement victory against an SEC heavyweight. The Horned Frogs defeated No. 9 Vanderbilt 11-4 in their season opener Friday.
“We’re trying not to get caught up in who we’re playing,” said TJ Bruce, TCU’s associate head coach who spoke with reporters in place of head coach Kirk Saarloos following the game.
“We’re trying to do a really good job of being in the moment and just playing the game, and taking the opportunities that are given to us.”
Saturday’s game played out in a similar manner as the day before for TCU. The Horned Frogs scored 9 runs over the final 4 innings against Vanderbilt, and scored 14 over the final 5 against the Razorbacks, who threw a number of newcomers for the first time.
Every TCU starting position player had at least one RBI hit. Brayden Taylor led the Horned Frogs by going 4 for 6 with 2 walks, and Austin Davis and Anthony Silva each had 3 RBI.
Arkansas fell to 1-1 ahead of its final game in Arlington on Sunday against Oklahoma State. First pitch is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.
“We got it handed to us pretty good,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. “We had a couple of plays early in the game where we felt like if we could turn two double plays it would have saved us five runs.
“Give credit to TCU. They didn’t swing at balls, they stole bases and they just did a great job of kind of taking it to us….I’m glad we have another game tomorrow.”
TCU had the stronger bullpen after both starters were chased in the second inning. Right-hander Kole Klecker pitched 4 1/3 innings in relief for the Horned Frogs, allowed 1 run and 3 hits, and struck out 6.
Klecker stranded runners on the corners after he replaced starter Cam Brown in the second inning, and was on the mound as TCU built a six-run lead. The Razorbacks did not score against him until Kendall Diggs led off the bottom of the sixth with a solo home run to right field.
“Klecker (came) in and (stopped) the momentum that was going on,” Bruce said. “I was really impressed with how he came out of the pen and threw a first-pitch breaking ball. That’s really hard to do in terms of the situation going on and the atmosphere.”
Arkansas threw 8 relievers after starting right-hander Will McEntire allowed 4 runs on 5 hits and 1 walk in 1 1/3 innings. McEntire threw 19 of 29 pitches for strikes, but many of his pitches were hit hard high in the zone.
“Everything was right around the waist,” Van Horn said. “It wasn’t down around the knees or a little below. He was leaving the ball up where they could see it.”
Left-hander Zack Morris was strong for most of his 3 1/3 innings in relief, but he was the losing pitcher after he allowed two runs in the fifth inning.
Cole Fontenelle’s two-out RBI single came on the first pitch thrown by Arkansas freshman right-hander Gage Wood and gave TCU a 5-4 lead. Things snowballed from there during Wood’s 10-pitch outing.
He allowed a double steal, then walked Tre Richardson to load the bases when he was assessed a ball for a pitch-clock infraction before a 3-0 pitch. Wood was pulled after he walked Silva in five pitches to force home another run that gave TCU a 6-4 lead.
“We threw some young guys out there,” Van Horn said. “Gage Wood, he’s been pitching great for us. I think he was…just a little too nervous. I think you’ll see a lot better pitcher down the road.”
The Horned Frogs blew the game open and took a 10-4 lead with a four-run sixth inning. Three runs were allowed by right-hander Austin Ledbetter, and the fourth followed a walk by freshman left-hander Parker Coil.
Coil allowed a lead-off home run to left field by Davis in the seventh to extend TCU’s lead to 11-5. The Horned Frogs added seven runs over the eighth and ninth innings against right-handers Dylan Carter and Cooper Dossett.
Carter, who redshirted last season after transferring from a junior college, pitched in his first game for Arkansas. Also making their Razorback debuts were the freshmen Wood, Coil, Dossett, Sean Fitzpatrick and Ben Bybee.
All of the Razorbacks’ runs were scored on home runs by Jared Wegner, Hudson Polk, Diggs and Jayson Jones. Three homers were solo.
Wegner’s three-run home run in the bottom of the first inning traveled 442 feet to center field and answered a three-run inning by the Horned Frogs. Polk added a solo homer to left field in the second inning to tie the game 4-4.
Brown, the TCU starter, allowed 4 runs on 5 hits and 1 walk, and struck out 1 in 1 2/3 innings. He threw 25 of 48 pitches for strikes.
“I thought we did a good job of getting his pitch count up again, just like we did yesterday (against Texas left-handed starter Lucas Gordon),” Van Horn said. “We were fouling off a lot of pitches. His stuff is pretty good, but when he made a mistake, for the most part we hit him and rattled him a little bit.”
Jones’ two-out home run to left field in the ninth inning was his first career hit. The freshman from nearby Denton, Texas, entered as a pinch hitter and defensive replacement in the seventh inning for third baseman Caleb Cali, who struck out in all four of his at-bats Saturday.
Cali is 0 for 8 and has struck out seven times in Arlington while batting third in the lineup.
“His batting average against our pitching has been pretty good, but he’s had some bad days,” Van Horn said. “He struck out four times in a (scrimmage) last week. I don’t know if he got a hit for two or three days, and then he’ll go 4 for 4. We need him to hit and he’s not hitting.
“The conversation is, ‘You’re an older guy. You’ve shown you can hit this caliber of pitching,’ because our top five or six guys are as good as anybody’s top five or six guys, and he’s hit those guys. He needs to pick it up a little bit for us to really have a tough lineup.”
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