“Small ball” doesn’t do justice to the brand of baseball TCU has won with in 2014.
The Horned Frogs won again Saturday, their seventh victory in a row and 14th in 15 games. TCU rode starting pitcher Preston Morrison as far as it could before Keaton Jones delivered a game-winning suicide squeeze bunt in the ninth for a 1-0 win over Cal State Northridge at Lupton Stadium — the Frogs’ 11th shutout of the season.
Morrison threw his second complete game in his last four starts and increased his string of scoreless innings to 17 2/3. He’s allowed just two runs in his last 39 innings since giving up four runs to Texas Tech and coming out after two innings (his shortest career start) on March 22. Since that Tech series, TCU (29-13) has gone 16-3.
“I feel like I’m almost back to where I want to be,” said Morrison, who improved to 6-3. “My timing was off, and whenever my timing is off I’m not able to throw the pitches I want, where I want them. They weren’t moving. I worked through that and I feel like my timing is back.”
Keaton Jones, who laid down a suicide squeeze bunt to score Kevin Cron in Tuesday’s win, did it again with one out in the ninth. Cron worked a walk to lead off the inning, and pinch runner Jeremie Fagnan took his place at first. Garrett Crain later singled through the left side to put runners on the corners with one out.
“That’s our brand of baseball right there,” said Jones, who scored Fagnan from third with the game winner. “I wanted to swing away, but I know I need to do whatever I can do.”
Matadors’ starter Jerry Keel matched Morrison through eight innings before Shay Maltese took over in the ninth. Keel held TCU to four hits and two walks. Morrison, however, was a little better, holding Northridge to three hits and a walk while striking out five.
He retired the first nine and nine of the last 10 batters he faced. His defense turned in sterling plays by Jones, third baseman Derek Odell and second baseman Crain.
“They make the plays they need to, but they also go and get the extraordinary outs,” said Morrison, whose ERA dropped to 1.42 in 76 innings.
“You really have to play well defensively at third base when Preston is pitching with right-handed hitters up because so many balls get topped in that direction,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said.
The Frogs have five shutouts in their last seven games. TCU’s team ERA is 0.29 in that span, with two runs allowed in the last 631/3 innings.
“This is as talented a pitching staff as we’ve had at TCU, which is saying something because we’ve had some good ones,” Schlossnagle said.
TCU is 14-1 in April, its hottest streak since going 14-1 (mostly in May) in 2010.