As the calendar turned to May, a big series awaited No. 7 TCU during the first weekend of the new month as No. 24 Texas made the trip to Fort Worth. Not only was it an important series for the Horned Frogs but an important start for pitcher Brian Howard.
The righty delivered on Saturday afternoon, throwing eight shutout innings while allowing only one hit to go along with four strikeouts in the Frogs 8-2 win. Howard was able to get the cutter going early on and stayed in attack mode, facing no more than five batters in an inning. He improved his record to 7-3 this season.
“I was able to start it middle and have it stay on the plate,” Howard said after the game during the ESPN broadcast. “I was also able to do the old ‘expando cutter’ which I started on the edge and broke off the dish a couple of times.”
That’s right, “expando cutter.” When you throw the kind of game Howard did on Saturday, you earn the right to name your pitches.
The Frogs’ offense has been clicking on all cylinders against the Longhorns pitching during the first two games of the series. All eight of the TCU’s runs on Saturday came in the first three innings, allowing Howard to get into a groove without worry. Catcher Evan Skoug’s 12th home run of the season got the scoring started in the second inning. TCU then sent 12 hitters to the plate in the third, scoring seven runs in that frame. Both designated hitter Connor Wanhanen and shortstop Ryan Merrill had two-run doubles in the inning. Texas scored their two runs in the ninth off the Frogs’ bullpen.
Going deep into the game was huge for both Howard and the Frogs after Friday night’s marathon. TCU built a 6-1 lead only to watch the Longhorns roar back and tie things up in the ninth. The Frogs would go on to win 11-10 in 11 innings on a sacrifice fly by Wanhanen.
“I was really focused on pitch economy, just trying to get deep in this game for the team because I’ve been doing a pretty poor job of that this year,” added Howard. “So I was trying to pick us up. Last night, we used a lot of arms so I wanted to make sure I attacked hitters and stay ahead for the most part.”
TCU ran its record to 34-11 on the season and 14-6 in Big 12 play, good enough for first place in the conference. Meanwhile, Texas falls to 31-18 and 9-9 in the Big 12 as the Longhorns will try to avoid the sweep on Sunday and possibly slipping out of the Top 25.
First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Lupton Stadium in Fort Worth.