TCU pitcher Preston Morrison has earned a few nicknames from teammates since arriving on campus three years ago.
He’s called the Predator for his beast-like mentality on the mound that catches opposing hitters off guard.
And he’s been called The Machine, for his almost robot-like penchant for mowing through lineups like assembly-line machinery.
On Friday night at Lupton Stadium both monikers were en vogue, as Morrison threw his second consecutive complete-game shutout as the Horned Frogs beat Kansas State 5-0 before a crowd of 3,613.
TCU (32-13, 11-5 Big 12) has won 10 in a row and 17 of its past 18 games. It was Morrison’s fourth complete game in 2014 and sixth of his career. TCU tied a Big 12 record with its 13th shutout of the season, tying Texas in 2011.
“What more do you say?” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “It’s almost like you get bored with it, but we shouldn’t because a pitcher like Preston doesn’t come around very often. Everybody that walks in this ballpark needs to be appreciative of the kind of career he’s having.”
Morrison (7-3) has been on the prowl for the past month. He’s won his past five starts and allowed just two runs in his past 48 innings, including no runs in his past three starts, a span of 26 2/3 innings.
“It wasn’t my best but I felt good. It wasn’t that unreal feeling. Probably a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10,” Morrison said. “I was able to make pitches and get ahead of guys when I needed to. The defense played well and we got some early runs and that really helps me just go after guys.”
Morrison tied Jake Arrieta (2006-07) and Shawn Thompson (1997-00) for fifth place all time with his 23rd career win at TCU.
He held the Big 12’s top-hitting team to seven hits and a walk and struck out seven. He never faced more than four batters in an inning and the Wildcats (23-23, 4-12) never had a runner reach third base.
Shortstop Keaton Jones made three diving stops, two to his right and one behind second base, to keep runners off the bases.
“I’ve got to make those plays,” Jones said. “That’s why I’m the shortstop. I pride myself on making those kind of plays. Every time [Morrison] throws the ball I have a chance of getting a ground ball. You have to be on your toes. He was unreal, amazing. I love playing behind him.”
Jerrick Suiter’s double and Dylan Fitzgerald’s single scored runs in the second to give No. 21 TCU a 2-0 lead. Kevin Cron’s high pop-up to shallow left was lost by outfielder Max Brown, who let it drop behind him, allowing Cron a double and Boomer White to score. Cron was 4-for-4 with an RBI.
“It’s always good to get those every now and again,” he said. “We call them free doubles when they lose it in the lights or whatever it may be. We’ll take them anyway we can get them to get a run on the board to give [our pitchers] one more, even though they don’t really need it nowadays.”
In the fifth, White singled and later scored on Garrett Crain’s sacrifice fly. In the sixth, Cody Jones scored after reaching on a two-out bunt single. Later, on a double steal with Derek Odell, Jones came around to score when the throw to second was in the dirt.
K-State had two on after a walk and single to start the seventh, but catcher Kyle Bacak picked off Shane Conlon trying to steal third and Morrison got a strikeout and a foul out to end the inning.
“The stuff he had was pretty special,” Bacak said. “His fastball was really moving today and his change-up was diving and he was throwing his breaking ball for strikes. He’s been really good lately but that was Preston Morrison at his best right there. Really impressive.”