Sunday, February 24, 2013

Cal State Fullerton Titans 6 at TCU Horned Frogs 2 (NCAA Baseball) -February 23, 2013


It's always fun to discover an extra game after the initial trip is planned. When I found the updated college baseball schedule online, I started going through every Texas-based team to see if they were at home this weekend. Imagine my delight when I learned that the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs were hosting baseball powerhouse Cal State Fullerton in Fort Worth. With a start time of 2 p.m., it fit in nicely with the indoor soccer game in Allen at 7. Of course, the plans changed after that and the soccer game was dispatched from the schedule but the baseball game remained, so I headed over to Lupton Stadium to catch all the action.

Lupton Stadium

 

Built in 2003 on the TCU campus, Lupton Stadium is named for Charlie and Marie Lupton in recognition of a $2-million gift from the Brown-Lupton Foundation, of which Charlie was a founder back in 1944. You might notice in the picture below that the field is named separately (Roger Williams was a TCU player and coach, while Michael Reilly is a local businessman), meaning there are four individuals recognized here. It maybe a bit wordy, but it is much better than naming rights sold to a corporation.



Parking is free in a large lot off West Berry Street. From here, you can walk around the fence and see the history here, including a 1921 conference champions plaque in the shape of a baseball. Continuing along the third base side, the championships are listed in chronological order, with the CWS appearance in 2010 the highlight.



TCU teams are called the Horned Frogs, although the animal is actually a lizard. The name was given back in 1897 when the university was located in Waco and must be one of the longest serving nicknames in sports. There are horned frog representations everywhere around the ballpark, including an inflatable one as you approach (below). There is even a stand selling Horned Frog jewelry and art for true fans.



The main ticket window is located up a flight of stairs and after paying $12 for a reserved seat, you can make your way inside, being sure to pick up a copy of the free game notes. I should point out that fans show up in droves here as TCU was 11th in total attendance in 2012 with an average of 4,112 in a venue with a capacity of just 4,500. Most of these seem to be season ticket holders and there were only reserved bleacher seats available when I showed up an hour before game time.



The stadium has two seating levels and the bleachers are the uncovered seats in the second deck above. There are about 26 seats per row, so when you get a middle seat, you are pretty much stuck. The picture below was taken well before game time but it filled up quickly. With the sun shining brightly, I decided to move to a shadier location on the concourse, where a couple of metal picnic tables are available to all with decent views of the mound and home plate.



The concourse is a bit narrow but perfectly adequate for the crowd. There are concessions along the concourse with sausage wraps at $4.50 very tempting, but I chose a freshly grilled hot dog at the TCU Grill for $4, where cheeseburgers are also on offer at $7.50. Other typical fare is available as well as a Mexican stand with $5 burritos that looked very good.



Along the concourse you will notice signs for players that have made the majors, although they include minor league contracts. Lance Broadway played in 27 games for the Chisox and Mets but never appeared in the majors for the Blue Jays, spending his last year in organized baseball at AAA Las Vegas. It is too bad he didn't make it big in New York as he might have the best name for anyone who played in the Big Apple.



Along the right field line there is a large berm where kids can run around. Even better, you can stand against a fence here and get a completely unobstructed view of the diamond. All seats are protected by netting so if you want a clear view, best to move over to the berm. I alternated between the shaded picnic table and this area throughout the game.



Overall, Lupton Stadium is yet another beautiful college ballpark with great fans, good food options, and a nice atmosphere on a weekend afternoon. If you are in the DFW Metroplex during baseball season, check out the TCU schedule too see if the Horned Frogs are at home and if they are, make sure to catch a game.

The Game

Cal State Fullerton came into the weekend ranked 19th with a 4-0 record, while TCU was 24th despite an 0-3 start. The Titans won Friday's encounter 7-2 and sent freshman Justin Garza (below, drafted by Pittsburgh in the 26th round out of high school but smartly choosing school instead) to the hill to face sophomore Preston Morrison.



In the top of the first, leadoff hitter Richy Pedroza reached on an error when first baseman Kevin Cron bobbled a grounder. This rattled Morrison who walked the next batter before getting a double play ball. But a hit batsmen, infield single from prospect Michael Lorenzen (below, taken from the picnic table), another hit batter, and a walk to Jake Jefferies led to two unearned runs.



Garza was superb, throwing 4 perfect innings before giving up a hit with one out in the fifth, the only blemish through seven frames. Morrison was just as good, retiring 19 of 22 batters he faced after giving up those runs as the game zoomed along. Below is Jantzen Witte out at first, taken from the berm area.



In the top of the 8th, Matt Chapman bunted for a single to lead things off. Morrison was replaced by Riley Ferrell, who gave up two singles to load the bases for Jefferies. After fouling one off (below) and taking the count full, Jefferies smashed a pitch over the right field fence for a grand slam and a 6-0 Titan lead.



Garza had a safe lead but tired in the bottom of the frame, giving up four straight hits and 2 runs before leaving having just thrown 86 pitches. J.D. Davis relieved and shut the door the rest of the way as CSF won 6-2 to move to 6-0 on the season.



The game took just 2:18 as the pitchers were throwing strikes and batters were swinging freely. There were only two walks, both by Morrison in the first inning. When the weather is so nice (see the temperature in the picture above - 67F!), I would like it if the game took just a little bit longer. This will be my last warm day until I return to Singapore in two weeks.

Notes

This was my 12th collegiate ballpark and each has been a great experience. Every stadium is unique and the fans are much different than those in the minors. Many are alumni and as most players remain for four years, they really build a relationship with them. There were several Titan fans who had made the trip as well and were standing along the first base line where they could talk to their players after the game. One guy chatted with me asking if I "booked" every game. Turns out that booking means keeping score and sounds much cooler. So yeah, I book every game.

Next Up

I'm flying to New York Sunday morning (already upgraded to first class!) for a week of work, but hope to see the Nets and Grizzlies Sunday evening, assuming my flight is on time. Check back tomorrow for an update.

Best,

Sean
 

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