Punched out: TCU dumped from Big 12 tournament, ‘has work to do’

TCU’s Preston Morrison gave up seven runs in 3 
 innings against Texas Tech, continuing his late-season slide.
TCU’s Preston Morrison gave up seven runs in 3 1/3 innings against Texas Tech, continuing his late-season slide. AP

There was no doubt in his mind.

“I think we’re a slam dunk,” Jim Schlossnagle said of his team’s shot for a national seed in the NCAA baseball playoffs next week.

But faith is all the TCU baseball coach had to show for his team’s two days at the Big 12 tournament at ONEOK Field.

The Horned Frogs were dumped out of the field Thursday with their second loss in as many games, 8-1 to Texas Tech after Wednesday’s 6-5 loss to Baylor.

TCU committed three errors in the two games, gave up five home runs, misplayed a double-play ball, stole no bases, ran into an inning-ending out at third base, walked seven, balked twice, hit a batter, threw two wild pitches, blew a save, hit .243, had only two hits for extra bases and went 4 for 21 with runners in scoring position.

Now the Frogs, ranked fifth nationally in RPI before Thursday’s loss, must hope their non-Tulsa body of work can speak for itself.

“No team should be judged on any one game or series,” Schlossnagle said. “To answer your question, I think we’re a slam-dunk national seed. But that’s the least of my concern. Last time I checked, you’ve got to win a regional before you get to a super regional.”

The Horned Frogs (43-11), who lost back-to-back games for the first time this year, are still the regular-season champions and will certainly host a four-team regional at Lupton Stadium next week.

But earning one of the eight national seeds has so much value, because it means they would host a best-of-three super regional the following weekend if they advance out of the regional.

“We’ve earned that. We earned that before we got on the bus to come here,” Schlossnagle said. “But I don’t get a vote. They [the selection committee] can do what they want. The bottom line is, the national champion last year wasn’t a national seed. We have bigger issues in terms of getting better as a team.”

Indeed, one is straightening out their most reliable starting pitcher.

Senior right-hander Preston Morrison (11-2) gave up seven runs in 3 1/3 innings, including two home runs to the Red Raiders (31-23), who also beat him in Lubbock on April 3 in his previous shortest outing. Unable to locate his sinker, Morrison hit a batter, walked a batter and got only five ground-ball outs against 19 batters faced.

He was victimized by a double play that went unturned when third baseman Derek Odell bobbled a ground ball with the bases loaded and one out in the first inning and the game scoreless. It ended up being a three-run inning. But Morrison had put himself in that position by hitting the first batter of the game on the third pitch.

“I think they see me a little better than other teams,” Morrison said. “But also, I just didn’t have my best stuff today. The combination of the two was not going to work out well.”

But Thursday wasn’t an anomaly for Morrison. He has given up 20 runs (15 earned) in 31 innings covering his last five starts.

“I just think I didn’t have it, and they were able to capitalize on everything that went wrong,” he said. “I just need to go back to who I am and just realize that they kind of have my number, really.”

Tech reliever Corey Taylor of Kennedale, making his first start, needed only 63 pitches for five shutout innings against the TCU offense. He improved to 4-0 and lowered his nation-leading ERA to 0.31.

“We knew it was going to be a tall order against Corey Taylor,” Schlossnagle said. “We couldn’t match him. We obviously have some work to do.”

Brian Howard and Drew Gooch were just as good in relief for TCU, but the game was 7-0 by the time they entered. Howard struck out five in 3 1/3 innings, and Gooch had three strikeouts in 2 1/3. They allowed an unearned run on four hits and two walks combined.

The Frogs avoided their first shutout loss, at least, when Evan Williams was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth inning. But there was little to talk about from the game. The Frogs could only think about the next one. And it’s a long time from now.

“We didn’t have to win this tournament, and we didn’t have to bring a pitcher back on short rest or something like that,” Schlossnagle said. “But we wanted to play well. The game’s not played with a light switch. Unfortunately — or maybe fortunately — this gets to sit in the pit of our stomach for 10 more days.”

And the ride home.

Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @calexmendez

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram