HOUSTON—Texas Tech ace Chad Bettis had very good stuff Friday and appeared on his way to a dominating performance after striking out two in a scoreless first.
Texas Christian ace Steven Maxwell did not have his silver hammer or his good fastball, working at 87-89 instead of his usual 88-93, and he looked on his way to a rough outing after giving up two runs in the first.
But Maxwell battled through six innings—the last five of them scoreless—and Bettis was tagged for seven runs on 11 hits over his six innings (despite striking out nine), as the Horned Frogs cruised to an 11-2 win in the first game of the Houston College Classic.
It looked like things were only going to get worse for Maxwell when Taylor Ashby smacked a line drive off his hip for a 1-2-3 putout leading off the second. TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle and the Horned Frogs' trainer came out to check on Maxwell, who visibly gathered himself with a few deep breaths and a number of warm-up pitches between batters. He remained in the game, and the liner proved to be a turning point.
"It really got me on the hip bone, that joint where the leg moves, so I was definitely feeling it the whole game," Maxwell said. "But it kind of helped me force myself to get my adrenaline going so I wouldn't feel it as much, and that's the environment I pitch best in. So it actually helped me out a little bit, got me more focused."
Maxwell said he concentrated on getting first-pitch strikes, and he began employing his 74-81 mph curveball and 78-80 changeup more after the first—especially the change. He allowed just four more hits over five scoreless innings after the first, striking out four and walking two.
"He didn't have much. His fastball was flat, and he didn't throw his breaking ball in the zone," Schlossnagle said. "And two weeks before the season he didn't even have a changeup. I mean, not a good one, not one he would throw. Coach (Randy) Mazey did a good job with him, changed the grip on him, and it just kind of clicked with him one day. That pitch saved him the first outing against Sam Houston State, and it really saved him a bunch today. It really got him out of some jams when he couldn't throw his breaking ball in the zone and his fastball was flat and over the middle of the plate."
Bettis had plenty more juice on his fastball, sitting at 91-93 for six innings and touching 94, but his command of his fastball, power breaking ball and changeup came and went. TCU also put the leadoff man on base in the third, fourth, fifth and sixth innings, and the leadoff man scored in three of those four frames.
"He just had a hard time getting the leadoff hitter out, so he was in the stretch early and often," Texas Tech coach Dan Spencer said. "Every time he left a ball up, they hit it, and when he made a good pitch, he got them out—he had a lot of strikeouts. His stuff was good, but his command was not razor-sharp, and they jumped him. I think the breaking ball came and went and I think the change came and went a little bit. More than that I think the fastball didn't stay consistently down in the zone. He got it up a couple of times, and they banged it."
Give the hot-hitting Horned Frogs credit: They were aggressive and did not back down from Bettis. Veterans Bryan Holaday (a triple and a double in his first two at-bats) and Matt Curry (two RBI doubles) did much of the damage.
"Sometimes when you're facing a guy like that—and (TCU freshman Matt) Purke has the same thing going—when you're facing Chad Bettis, you've got to step into the box ready to hit," Schlossnagle said. "If you're around the plate a lot, then it's actually a relatively comfortable at-bat, as opposed to a guy who's all over the place."
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