Texas Tech didn’t see the real Preston Morrison when the Red Raiders knocked him around for four runs on six hits in just two innings on March 22.
TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle knew it. Morrison and his teammates all knew it. That’s why it wasn’t a surprise that Morrison took the ball for the Horned Frogs’ College World Series opener against the Red Raiders on Sunday at TD Ameritrade Park.
Morrison, who was ill the day he lost to Tech, showed why Schlossnagle felt comfortable giving him the ball. He held Tech to one run on five hits before being relieved by Riley Ferrell after 71/3 innings. Morrison struck out a career-high 10 batters and walked two.
Morrison doesn’t use the illness as an excuse for what he and Schlossnagle call his worst outing at TCU.
After the Frogs lost two of three to Tech that weekend, Morrison, whose record fell to 2-3 at the time, and Brandon Finnegan, who will start against the Virginia/Mississippi winner at 7 p.m. Tuesday, held a pitchers-only meeting.
Morrison has been outstanding since. He’s only allowed nine earned runs since losing to Tech in his last 922/3 innings.
“I was myself [Sunday.] That first outing against them was my worst outing in my history in baseball,” said Morrison, who is the third pitcher to strike out 10 or more batters in a CWS game at TD Ameritrade Park. “After that was done, I turned over a new leaf and I haven’t looked back since.”
Tech coach Tim Tadlock said he thought it was a brilliant move to have Morrison start the opener against Red Raiders hitters amped up to be playing in their first CWS game.
“I thought Preston was as good as advertised,” Tadlock said. “He pitched like the Big 12 pitcher of the year. Tip your hat to coach Schlossnagle and coach [Kirk] Saarloos on this deal. You play your first World Series game in Omaha and guys are hunting that fastball and they’re sped up and you roll a guy throwing 80 to 82 and changing speeds like that.”
Tadlock said he saw TCU’s dugout laughing when Morrison threw an off-speed pitched clocked at 59 mph.
“It’s really hard to get slowed down, and I think we slowed down in the later innings, but he did a really good job early,” he said. “Did a good job the whole time.”
Martin ex shines
Texas Tech’s Anthony Lyons, a freshman from Arlington Martin who started 19 games this season, has come through with a clutch pinch hit all year.
He did it again against one of the toughest closers in college baseball on Sunday. He replaced Bryant Burleson, who was 0 for 3 with two strikeouts against Morrison, with one out and a runner on and Tech trailing 1-0 in the eighth.
TCU brought in Ferrell to snuff the rally, which surprised Tadlock. Lyons singled to set the stage for a two-run inning.
“He’s given us really good at-bats whenever he’s in there,” Tadlock said. “[Burleson] was struggling a little bit against Preston, and I wasn’t really thinking they were going to go to Ferrell at that point. And then they did and he put together a good at-bat and the ball found a hole and did a great job.”
TCU luminary support
During a commercial break in Sunday’s game, former TCU linebacker Tank Carder and TCU men’s basketball coach Trent Johnson were interviewed from the stands on the jumbo screen at TD Ameritrade Park.
“I shouldn’t have let that ball under my glove. I know I allowed the winning run on second base. So I had to kind of regroup myself. We’re pretty comfortable in tight games. We do a good job as a team, when we’re down, of putting a good inning together.” — TCU OF Boomer White on his error that allowed Tech’s go-ahead run to second. White’s single in the bottom of the inning put TCU back on top.