Tom Murphy is a sports reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll. He was the 2017 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
Horned Frogs' offense dominant in Fayetteville
Arkansas reliever Zack Morris watches Monday, June 5, 2023, as Texas Christian right fielder Austin Davis rounds third and heads to the plate after hitting a 2-run home run during the sixth inning of the Razorbacks’ 12-4 loss in the championship series of the NCAA Fayetteville Regional at Baum-Walker Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — The steam locomotive that is TCU baseball blew through the NCAA Fayetteville Regional with three blowout wins, capped with Monday’s 12-4 rout of No. 3 Arkansas.
The Horned Frogs came into Northwest Arkansas on a heater and did not slow down, extending their winning streak to nine games by racking Arkansas twice and Arizona once by the combined score of 44-13.
TCU Coach Kirk Saarloos got even better breaking news as he was nearing the end of his media conference. Because national No. 14 seed Indiana State had committing to hosting a state-wide event next weekend, the Sycamores will have to travel to Fort Worth for a best-of-three NCAA Super Regional.
“I think that’d be very neat,” Saarloos said. “I haven’t gotten on my phone yet. I’m sure Fort Worth would like that.”
Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn and his staff were well aware it would take a special effort to eliminate the Horned Frogs over the weekend.
“The first thing, I want to congratulate TCU,” Van Horn said. “They were a wrecking crew. They were really good this weekend.”
TCU’s offensive numbers in the last five weeks border on the ridiculous.
More from WholeHogSports: All of our coverage of the NCAA Fayetteville Regional and Arkansas' season-ending loss
The Frogs entered Monday’s championship round with a .364 batting average since May 1, with 172 runs scored in that span for an average of 9.6 per game and a 16-2 record. They launched a 12-hit assault on Arkansas for their 14th game with double-figure hits in their last 19 outings.
TCU also scored in double figures for the sixth time in the last seven games.
“I think the belief really never wavered, it’s just that we weren’t jelled as a nine-man line up,” Saarloos said of his team’s mid-season lull. “We had some guys that would be swinging it well and some that wouldn’t be.
“I think that this is the first time that we have had guys throughout the lineup and it makes it a deep lineup in terms of how anybody in that order can beat you. I think it just says a lot about our kids in our dugout and their belief in our thought processes and sticking to it.”
The Horned Frogs dominated the all-regional team with seven position players, headlined by second baseman Tre Richardson, the most outstanding player.
The senior transfer from Baylor hit four home runs in two games against Arkansas, tripling his season home run total from two to six in Fayetteville. Richardson went 9 for 15 (.600) with 6 runs scored with 2 doubles, 4 home runs and 14 RBI.
He was joined on the all-region team by catcher Karson Bowen, first baseman Cole Fontenelle, shortstop Anthony Silva and outfielders Elijah Nunez and Austin Davis. Relief pitcher Luke Savage, who earned the win in Friday’s 12-4 win over Arizona, also made the all-regional team.
The right fielder Davis, hitting in the nine hole, hit the go-ahead home run against Arkansas Monday that propelled the Horned Frogs to scoring the final 10 runs of the game after trailing 4-2 in the fifth inning.
“It was a great feeling, but we’re not done yet,” Davis said. “We’ve got to keep our head’s down and keep working.”
The Horned Frogs gave up first inning runs to Arizona on Friday and Arkansas on Monday, but they were hardly hurdles.
TCU bounced back from that 2-0 deficit to Arizona to score four runs in the bottom of the first inning.
Arkansas held a lead after the first and fifth innings but the Horned Frogs’ dugout was filled with an air of inevitability.
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“I’m super proud of them for the perseverance they showed,” Saarloos said. “In terms of coming in here, I know they were 30-4 at Baum-Walker Stadium. I know we came here in 2019 and lost to Arkansas.
“And it’s a very, very difficult place to play. And the fans are phenomenal. They’re into it. … It’s a place where if the momentum gets going it’s tough to stop.
“And I just told them ‘You guys can do anything you want. You walked in here and were able to win a regional. This isn’t the destination. Enjoy it tonight. But ultimately you came in doing what we came in to do.’ ”
Because the Horned Frogs are swinging hot bats from the leadoff hitter Nunez to Davis in the nine hole, they have the look of a team that is prepared to unleash some damage at the College World Series.
“Offensively, they have really good approaches,” Arkansas outfielder and team captain Jace Bohrofen said. “They’re just grinding pitches, man. It feels like our pitchers have them, and then somehow they hit something, foul it off, foul it off, and then they get a pitch to hit and drive it in for some runs.
“They’re all really tough outs, and they can just swing it one through nine.”
Arkansas pitcher Hagen Smith said the Horned Frogs were probably the hottest team the Hogs have seen all year.
“Their staff and their hitters are really good and it feels like every hitter you’re facing is a tough out, and you’ve just got to give credit to them,” Smith said.
“They’re playing really well right now, and they’re playing with a lot of confidence,” Van Horn said. “If they play like they did this weekend, they’re going to be hard to stop by anybody in the country. Maybe Wake Forest.”
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