Preston Morrison handed the ball to Jim Schlossnagle, and then hugged each of his infielders, who circled the mound Saturday in the 10th inning of TCU’s Super Regional game against Texas A&M.
Working left to right, Morrison finished his goodbyes and trotted off the field, into the visitors dugout and in front of a standing ovation at Lupton Stadium.
Then the Aggies won in walkoff fashion.
Blake Allemand’s RBI sacrifice fly — which gave A&M a 2-1 win and forced a decisive Game 3 Monday night — negated Morrison’s 9 1/3 inning, 105-pitch effort that nearly willed TCU to its second straight College World Series.
After forcing Aggies starter Matt Kent out of the game with two outs in the eighth inning, the Horned Frogs tied the game at 1-1, as Morrison continued to cruise.
He retired nine out of 11 batters he faced in the seventh, eighth and ninth, allowing a walk and a single and making it to extra innings in 95 pitches.
“He doesn’t exactly have the best blow-away stuff on the radar gun,” Allemand said, “but his stats and his record speak for themselves. He keeps the ball down. He changes speed. We had a hard time stringing together hits against him.”
When TCU went down in order in the 10th, Morrison stepped from the dugout, returned to the mound and struck out A&M’s first batter on three pitches. Then he found trouble.
A five-pitch walk and a single put runners on the corners and sent Schlossnagle to pull the senior, who was making his 60th career start for the Frogs. Whether TCU wins Monday or not, Sunday was the senior’s last appearance at Lupton. He didn’t realize that until he exited the game.
“Not until Coach Schloss came out there and let me know that I was done, and he told me I did a great job and I’ve had a great career here,” Morrison said. “So hopefully I get to pitch one more time. A couple more times.”
In a tie game, Schlossnagle tried to handle the mound visit as best he could. He didn’t want to “eulogize” Morrison just then, especially since if TCU wins Monday, Morrison will pitch at least one more time in Omaha.
But Schlossnagle didn’t want Sunday’s moment to be lost on Morrison or his teammates.
“It’s hard because I’m planning on that not being the last time he pitched,” Schlossnagle said. “I just said it was the last time he had the opportunity to pitch on this field, unless they’re planning to move the World Series to Lupton Stadium, which I don’t think is going to happen.
“[He’s had] an unbelievable career. Best pitcher in the history of this school, bar none. It’s not even close.”
Game 3 outlook
Schlossnagle didn’t announce his starter for Monday’s 7 p.m. Game 3, but he indicated it will either be left-hander Alex Young or right-hander Mitchell Traver. All of TCU’s pitchers will be available for relief, except Morrison.
A&M coach Rob Childress said left-hander Tyler Stubblefield will go for the Aggies. Stubblefield has made three appearances all season and only one start, giving up four earned runs in seven innings.
TCU is 24-6 in night games this year and 18-6 against left-handed starters. On Sunday, with lefty Matt Kent throwing for A&M, the Frogs featured three right-handed hitters, including switch hitters Cody Jones and Garrett Crain.
The Aggies are 25-5 at night, 37-9 against right-handed starters and 10-2 against left-handed starters.
▪ TCU got caught stealing twice Sunday, both of which situations were started by Kent stepping off the rubber.
▪ Garrett Crain delivered the Frogs’ only extra-base hit, a double in the eighth inning.
▪ A win for TCU would clinch its third College World Series appearance in program history (2010, 2014).
▪ TCU also lost the second game of last year’s Super Regional against Pepperdine.
▪ The Frogs will be the home team Monday after being the predetermined visitors on Sunday.
Ryan Osborne, 817-390-7760