TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle had little trouble choosing his starting pitcher for Saturday’s winner’s bracket game against N.C. State.
Senior right-hander Preston Morrison will take the hill for the Horned Frogs, no matter that he has given up seven runs in each of his past two starts.
“Best pitcher in the history of the school,” Schlossnagle said, asked what led to his choice. “He’s pitched in a lot of big games. He’s in our ballpark.”
Morrison (11-2, 2.63), who opted to return for his senior season in hopes of winning a championship, is 36-11 with a 1.84 earned-run average in four years at TCU. He ranks second in victories, first in innings pitched (445) and games started (58). The Horned Frogs are 41-17 in his starts.
In postseason, he is 0-2 with a 2.80 ERA in 35.1 innings, 30 hits, 11 walks and 27 strikeouts.
“He’s not perfect. He’s going to have to pitch well to win,” Schlossnagle said. “But how can you not feel confident? I can lay my head on my pillow, and I’ll be anxious about a lot of things. But starting pitching won’t be one of them.”
Morrison is coming off a loss in his last start, to Texas Tech at the Big 12 tournament. He lasted only 3.1 innings, his shortest start of the season. Both of his losses this year were to Texas Tech.
“I feel good. Bad starts are going to happen,” Morrison said Monday at the Horned Frogs’ playoff bracket watch party. “I’m not changing anything. I’m going to back and hit the reset button like I do after every start and get ready for whoever I’m pitching against this weekend.”
Center fielder Cody Jones said the Frogs have “all the confidence in the world” in Morrison.
“He’s just been incredible for four years,” Jones said. “He has his game. We know what he does. We’re excited to see him go.”
Mitchell Traver, who hadn’t pitched since May 12, called it a challenge to go seven innings Friday night against Sacred Heart, his longest outing of the year. But his performance meant the Frogs needed only six outs from the bullpen.
Coach Jim Schlossnagle considered pulling him after the fifth and sixth innings, but sent pitching coach Kirk Saarloos to remind the redshirt freshman they needed him for as long as he could go.
“He came and talked to me in the sixth inning and asked me, ‘How much time have you spent in the weight room these last few years?’ ” Traver said. “I said, ‘A lot.’ Especially being hurt. I had prepared to do that. I tried to go as deep as I could, so I’m glad it worked out that way.”
Brian Trieglaff pitched the final two innings, striking out six with 43 pitches, to finish the victory for Traver (8-2).
“For him to go 96 pitches when he hadn’t pitched in a couple of weeks, that’s not easy to do,” Schlossnagle said. “And Treiglaff came in and threw the strikes that we needed to have. We’re well-rested down there.”
Jones home run
Jones said he was just trying to put the bat on the ball when he hit his first-inning home run on Friday night.
“I had two strikes on me,” he said. “I was just looking to let a ball get deep and try to put it in play. It was inside. I kind of reacted to it. I saw the trajectory, and I was like, ‘Well, that could go.’ I just kind of heard the place erupt, and I was glad. I hoped I could get the game off to a good start. Felt good for the team.”
Jones went 2-for-3 and also doubled and walked twice. The only time he didn’t reach safely was when he tried to push a bunt to first base. But he has a string of 27 games reaching base and 10 games with a hit.
His on-base percentage is up to .482.
First baseman Jeremie Fagnan stole second and third base in the sixth inning Friday night against Sacred Heart, putting himself in position to score on a ground ball.
“I just saw the opportunity, and I just took it,” he said. “I’m always going to be aggressive when the time is there.”
Fagnan said he stole third on his own.
“One thing you can’t do is let up,” he said. “We’re going to play the same way we played since the opening game of the season. ... I think we kind of got back to our approach as an offense – get a good pitch to hit, get runners on, allow the middle of the order to drive us in.”
TCU finished with four steals.
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407