FORT WORTH, TX (Press Release)- Four Stephen F. Austin pitchers combined to limit one of the nation’s most powerful offenses to just five hits and three runs, but No. 13-ranked TCU’s relief arms held the ‘Jacks hitless through the final 3.1 innings in SFA’s 3-2 setback to the Horned Frogs at Lupton Stadium on Tuesday night.
It was two-out hitting that allowed the nationally-ranked Horned Frogs to get the jump on the ‘Jacks as all three of the home team’s scores occurred with a pair of outs.
In what may have been the final start of his Stephen F. Austin career, senior Eric Polivkaturned in a five-inning performance in which he gave up all three TCU runs on four hits and a walk. He traded zeroes with TCU’s freshman ace Dalton Horton in the first inning and was one pitch away from escaping the second after surrendering a leadoff single, but Dane Steinhagan launched a two-run homer to left-center that put TCU on top before the frame came to a close.
Knowing they would need to manufacture runs in any way possible, the ‘Jacks made the most of what Horton gave them. Eric DeJesus drew a leadoff walk in the third and hustled over to third on a sacrifice bunt by Clark Kahawaii coupled with TCU’s lone error of the tilt.
From there, Matthew Dickey laid down a perfect bunt down the first base line, bringing DeJesus home and cutting the ‘Jacks deficit to 2-1.
Again, Polivka sat down the first two he faced in the third before free passes came back to haunt both him and the ‘Jacks. A hit by pitch and a walk put runners on first and second which set the table for Elliott Barzilli who roped an RBI double down the left field line to push the eventual game-winning run across.
More TCU damage may have been done in the fifth if it weren’t for the arm of Zac Michenerin right field. Following Polivka’s second strikeout, Evan Skoug mashed a one-out double to right field and refused to hold up at second. That was all the incentive Michener needed to fire a long throw to Tyler Kendrick at short who made an easy toss to DeJesus that completed the 965 putout.
Inspired by Michener’s herculean defensive play, the ‘Jacks’ offense came to life in the sixth. Dickey started the frame by lacing Horton’s first pitch to left field for a single. From there, the senior etched his name in the SFA baseball history books by swiping second base to up his career stolen base total to 54 – the most by any player in the history of the program. The heart of SFA’s batting order took over from there as Garrett McMullen drew a four-pitch, two-out walk to put runners on first and second. Conner Fikes made sure Horton would get out of the sixth by cracking a double to the gap in right-center to score Dickey and bring SFA within 3-2.
That hit, though, represented the final time an SFA batter would reach base as Preston Guillory, Ryan Burnett and Brian Trieglaff combined to sit down the final 10 Lumberjack batters in the tilt.
Austin Hagy, Seth Campbell and Austin Smith each fired an inning of scoreless relief to keep the visitors within striking distance and the only other hit TCU notched was a leadoff single by Barzilli in the home sixth.
Horton improved to 8-0 on the season by working 5.2 innings and giving up two runs on all three SFA hits. Barzilli was the game’s only player who enjoyed a multi-hit outing, too.
With their final regular season non-conference game of the season in the books, the ‘Jacks turn their attention to a postseason push. Beginning on Thursday evening at 6:30 p.m., SFA welcomes Lamar to Jaycees Field in the final Southland Conference series of the season for both teams. Currently the sixth-place team in the league standings, SFA’s magic number to make the SLC Tournament stands at two heading into the pivotal league matchups.