When he walks off the mound Sunday, Preston Morrison knows exactly how he wants to feel.
“You want to be proud of the way you pitched,” he said.
And one more thing.
“Have a ‘W’ in your pocket.”
When it comes to NCAA postseason games, that would be a first for the TCU right-hander.
Morrison, who will start for TCU in its College World Series opener against LSU, is the Horned Frogs’ all-time leader in starts and innings. He is second in wins. He is a three-time All-American.
But he has never won a postseason game.
He is 0-3 with five no-decisions.
Not because he’s been ineffective. He has a 2.56 ERA, 42 strikeouts and 15 walks in 52 2/3 innings.
But he’s been the starter in some of the hardest-luck regional and Super Regional games a pitcher could imagine, the 22-inning game last year against Sam Houston State, the ninth-inning stunner on a home run against North Carolina State two weeks ago (when he matched a career high with 10 strikeouts) and the loss on a 10th-inning sacrifice fly against Texas A&M last week (when he pitched 9 1/3 innings).
Luckily for the Horned Frogs, he has another chance.
“I’d love for him to get a win,” coach Jim Schlossnagle said and smiled. “It’d mean a lot because it’s going to be in Omaha in the first game. I’m just glad we get a chance to see him pitch again. Because last week, I was worried that we wouldn’t get to.”
After the North Carolina State loss, TCU had to win three elimination games without Morrison pitching. After the A&M loss, TCU had to win one more elimination game without Morrison.
All he could do was watch from the dugout under an enormous rally hat tower.
“We definitely did not want that to be his last start on Sunday,” relief pitcher Trey Teakell said. “It means a lot to me personally because I’ve been here with him, and he’s the best pitcher in TCU history.
“It really means a lot to our team to give him another start and hopefully give him his first postseason win. There’s nobody who deserves that more than him, and I’m really happy he gets another opportunity. I think this will be the one.”
Morrison’s 36 wins are second at TCU all time. The Horned Frogs are 41-19 in his starts. He has a 1.85 career ERA.
The lack of a postseason victory is just baseball, Morrison said.
“It happens,” he said. “You can’t really control winning. I only influence one half of an inning. I’ve pitched two really good games this postseason. I’m very proud of the way I pitched those two games.”
So is Schlossnagle.
He considered left-hander Tyler Alexander for Sunday’s start but ultimately went with the player he calls “the best pitcher in the history of TCU, and it’s not even close” for the biggest game of the season.
He opted for Morrison’s experience and command.
“He pitched really well here last year,” Schlossnagle said. “He’s not going to be wowed by the environment in any sense of the word. When you’re playing at this level, there’s a lot of things that go into a win or a loss for a pitcher’s record. But Preston’s going to give us a great chance, especially if he’s pitching the way he’s capable.”
That’s all Morrison is asking of himself on Sunday. Pitch the way he’s capable. Be proud of himself walking off the mound.
If he’s got his own ‘W’ in his pocket, all the better.
“It would mean a lot, especially in Omaha, because the more you win in Omaha, the more off time you get, the more time you get to spend in Omaha,” he said. “And every win in Omaha is going to stay with me forever. It’d be a great memory to have.”
It would be a first.
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407
College World Series
Saturday-June 23/24, TD Ameritrade Park Omaha
Arkansas vs. Virginia, 2 p.m. Saturday, ESPN
Florida vs. Miami, 7 p.m. Saturday, ESPN
LSU vs. TCU, 2 p.m. Sunday, ESPN
Cal State Fullerton vs. Vanderbilt, 7 p.m. Sunday, ESPN2
Refer to capsules
A team-by-team look at the rest of the CWS field. 8B