When TCU pitches Preston Morrison, good things happen. Mainly, ground balls.
Derek Odell knew that.
So when a ground ball sent him deep in the hole between first and second base in the sixth inning against Kansas on Friday night, he got enough of a jump to reach it, dive and tumble, then come up and throw in time to retire the side.
The play, with one on and Kansas trying to cut into a 7-1 deficit, provided an example of the value of a strike-throwing pitcher like Morrison, who pitched 7 2/3 in the Frogs’ 8-1 victory, coming in their inaugural Big 12 Conference game.
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“It’s fun playing defense behind Preston,” Odell said. “You know you’ve got to be locked in to every pitch, But it’s fun playing defense behind him because he works quick and he gets ground balls. You have to stay on your toes.”
Morrison (3-1) wound up staying another inning and a third after Odell’s play. He has now gone 7, 7, 8, 8 and 7 2/3 innings in his five starts this year.
The play did Odell some good, too. The sophomore from Canyon had made three errors over two games last week, giving him a team-leading five.
TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle was not shy about talking to his second baseman about his play.
“He worked hard on his defense the last couple of days because he hasn’t played as well as he’s capable of defensively this year,” Schlossnagle said. “He’s a better defender than that.. We expect him to be able to make those plays.”
It wasn’t all Odell. Center fielder Boomer White ranged deep for two flyball outs, and offensively, Jantzen Witte, Dylan Fitzgerald, White and Kevin Cron all had RBIs or multiple-hit games. (Odell himself had three hits and two runs batted in).
But it was Morrison who ultimately wound up the star of the show.
“You may beat him, but you’re going to have to hit a lot of groundball singles,” Schlossnagle said. “He’s not going to beat himself very often. And I thought they had as good a plan against him as any team has. But he’s fun to watch.”
And usually, so is the defense.