Horned Frogs playing at high level again in time for Arkansas rematch

By: Matt Jones Matt Jones's Twitter account
Published: Saturday, June 3, 2023
TCU third baseman Brayden Taylor heads to first Friday, June 2, 2023, after hitting a three-run home run during the first inning against Arizona in the first round of the NCAA Fayetteville Regional at Baum-Walker Stadium in Fayetteville.
( Andy Shupe)
TCU third baseman Brayden Taylor heads to first Friday, June 2, 2023, after hitting a three-run home run during the first inning against Arizona in the first round of the NCAA Fayetteville Regional at Baum-Walker Stadium in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE — The team that handed Arkansas its first loss of the 2023 baseball season hopes to send the Razorbacks to within one loss of elimination Sunday. 

Arkansas (42-16) and TCU (38-22) are scheduled to play at 8 p.m. in the winner’s bracket game at the NCAA Fayetteville Regional. 

More from WholeHogSports: How to watch, listen to Arkansas-TCU

The matchup comes 105 days after the Horned Frogs handed the Razorbacks their most lopsided loss of the season, 18-6 on Feb. 18 at the College Baseball Showdown in Arlington, Texas. The announced attendance of 20,295 was the largest for a college baseball game this year.

TCU recorded 19 hits, walked 11 times and stole 6 bases that night at Globe Life Field. 

“Anytime you play a team, if you beat them you’re pulling for them because of the RPI," TCU coach Kirk Saarloos said of the Razorbacks. "They’ve had a great season and that’s why they’re playing at home and the No. 3 overall seed.

“It’s going to be a phenomenal atmosphere and we’re super excited to go compete.” 

Saarloos did not name a starting pitcher for the Arkansas game when asked Friday night, but the Horned Frogs announced Saturday morning they will start right-hander Sam Stoutenborough against the Razorbacks. Stoutenborough is a graduate transfer from California who has a 4.31 ERA and 1.38 WHIP in 54 1/3 innings. 

TCU freshman Louis Rodriguez was the team's No. 1 weekend starter by the end of the regular season, but Saarloos said before the regional that Rodriguez is injured and will miss the rest of the postseason. 

Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said Friday that left-hander Hagen Smith would likely start against the winner of the TCU-Arizona game. 

Smith, a Bullard, Texas, native, did not pitch against the Horned Frogs earlier this year. Saarloos said he recruited Smith, a first-team All-SEC selection.

“It’s a dominant left-handed fastball with some attitude to go with it, in a good way,” Saarloos said. “He’s very confident in the fastball. We’re going to have our work cut out for us and we know that, which is going to be a lot of fun.” 

TCU defeated Arizona 12-4 on Friday to record its seventh consecutive victory. The winning streak includes a perfect showing at the Big 12 Tournament last week in Arlington.

The Horned Frogs’ performance against Arizona was reminiscent of their blowout of the Razorbacks in February. TCU had 17 hits, walked 5 times and stole 3 bases against the Wildcats (33-25).

Third baseman Brayden Taylor was the Horned Frogs’ offensive star with a 4-for-5 performance that included 6 RBI. It was a continuation of recent great play for Taylor, who is rated the No. 17 prospect for this year’s MLB Draft by Baseball America. 

During TCU’s last 6 games, Taylor is 14 for 25 with 18 RBI. He has homered in five of the last six games. 

“Every time he comes to the plate it feels like something special is about to happen,” TCU relief pitcher Luke Savage said. 

Taylor contributed to five runs as TCU built a 6-2 lead in the second inning against Arizona. He hit a three-run home run in the first inning and added a two-run single in the second. 

“He’s just a good hitter,” said Arizona coach Chip Hale, a former MLB manager for the Arizona Diamondbacks. “He hit the ball where we weren’t a couple of times. We shifted him and he hit it over there. He’s got a nice, short swing. He’s a good player, good defender. He’s going to be a good pro.” 

Taylor’s four hits Friday tied a season high set four times, including against Arkansas. He went 4 for 5 and walked twice against the Razorbacks in Arlington. 

Like his team, Taylor cooled after the College Baseball Showdown. His average fell to .233 following a March 25 game against Kansas, but has been a steady incline since. It is now .316. 

“You have a lineup now where everybody is kind of doing their part and Brayden probably isn’t trying to do too much,” Saarloos said. “When you’re not trying to do too much, your talent takes over — Brayden is a very talented player — and you give yourself a very good chance to be successful.

“That was probably, during the middle stretch of the season, the first time I ever saw Brayden question his ability to hit. At some point every great hitter is going to go through that. It comes back to fundamentals…and that’s what he did. Thankfully he’s back to the Brayden Taylor we all know.” 


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