Longhorns lose two run lead, succumb to TCU walk-off in wild ninth

Duke Ellis (Will Gallagher/IT)
Duke Ellis (Will Gallagher/IT)

FORT WORTH – Texas starter Bryce Elder’s first 106 pitches resulted in no TCU runs. His 108th pitch started TCU’s ninth-inning, 3-2 come-from-behind victory.

Longhorn head coach David Pierce gave Elder the opportunity to finish a complete-game shutout, but when he hit TCU’s Alex Isola to start the inning, Pierce elected to go to Kamron Fields in the bullpen.

“We felt like it was his game to finish if he could,” Pierce said. “He wanted the ball. Pitch count was right. He was fine. Once he hit the leadoff hitter, we just felt like we had a fresh arm in Kam and we’re going to go to him right now.”

Fields pitched three perfect innings a week prior against Texas Tech to close out the first game of the series, so Pierce thought even with a runner on Fields would be able to finish the game. However, Fields walked the first batter he faced, then threw back-to-back wild pitches that allowed TCU to make it a 2-1 game.

He issued another walk to put runners on first and third before allowing an RBI single to Johnny Rizer that tied the game.

Texas tried to make it as difficult as possible for TCU to score the winning run replacing the center fielder with Bryce Reagan to act as a fifth infielder, moving the right fielder to center, and leaving right field wide open.

None of that mattered as Alex Oviedo sent a high pop to shallow left that Eric Kennedy couldn’t come in and track down, allowing the winning run to score and TCU fans to revel in more “Lupton Magic” after a 3-2 win.

“He just didn’t command it,” Pierce said of Fields.

Texas’ sloppy ninth undid eight innings of solid defensive baseball and more ace-quality pitching from Elder against a top 25 TCU team.

The Horned Frogs entered the game with all nine starters’ on-base percentage north of .325 and seven above .390. Elder shut down TCU batters throughout the course of the game, working the inside part of the plate with a 92-93 mph fastball before going away from hitters with his cutter. Despite four walks and five hits against Elder, no Horned Frog made it past second base until the ninth inning.

However, TCU starter Nick Lodolo matched Elder every step of the way. Elder had seven strikeouts, Lodolo had nine. Elder had four walks, Lodolo had two. Elder threw a wild pitch, Lodolo didn’t have one charged against him. Both were charged with one earned run.

As a result, Texas had to scratch across runs by any means. In the eighth inning, Zach Zubia came to the plate with Duke Ellis on third and Nick Kennedy on first.

Zubia had previously hit a ball to straightaway center that looked to be heading over the fence before it was robbed by Rizer with a leaping catch. Rather than hope for a hit, Pierce put Ellis and Kennedy in motion on a 0-2 count to try and cross up the left-handed Lodolo.

Lodolo stepped off, threw home, and thought he had recorded a 1-2 putout to cancel Texas’ threat. The umpire even ruled Ellis out at the plate, but following a review the umpires returned and ruled Ellis safe, giving Texas a 1-0 lead.

“It was 0-2 with Zub’ versus the left-hander,” Pierce said. “With those two guys on base, it was the perfect opportunity.”

Michael McCann added an RBI in the ninth with a sacrifice fly as part of his 2-for-3 day. Austin Todd and Duke Ellis joined him as Longhorns with multiple hits.

But all that effort to scratch across two runs against two pitchers with a combined 1.50 ERA was for not after the events of the bottom of the ninth.

Pierce normally doesn’t address his team following games, but he told media in his postgame interview he planned to do so Friday night. “Be ready to play tomorrow because we’re coming to play,” said Pierce describing his planned message to the team.

Texas will throw Fort Worth-native Blair Henley on Saturday in an effort to even the Big 12 series. TCU will counter with Jake Eissler. First pitch is scheduled for7:30 p.m. and the game will be televised on ESPNU.