There are several ways to describe Preston Morrison’s robot-like demeanor on the mound.
In command. In control. In the zone.
But head coach Jim Schlossnagle might have put it best Saturday evening.
“It’s like a video game up there,” Schlossnagle said. “Call it down and in, he throws it down and in. Call it away, he throws it away. You tell him to sink it, he sinks it.”
Morrison, making his first career start, came one out shy of a complete game victory Saturday, throwing 8 and 2/3 innings and giving up just two runs as the Horned Frogs beat UNC-Wilmington 5-2 at Lupton Stadium.
Morrison, who entered Saturday with a team-low 1.18 ERA in 38 innings, earned his fourth win of the season, the previous three all coming out in relief.
More impressively, Morrison (4-0) has made a living at the Division I level with a fastball that rarely tops 80 mph. The true freshman throws from a three-quarter angle and works with four different pitches: a two-seam fastball, slider, sinker and changeup. Occasionally, when he needs a strike, he’ll go to a four-seam fastball.
Switching speeds between pitches and staying down in zone outweighs any lack of speed Morrison has on his fastball, Schlossnagle said.
“Velocity doesn’t have to be 95,” Schlossnagle said. “Velocity can be changing velocity.”
Schlossnagle said being able to do that was underrated.
“Every day is not going to be like that, but I think a pitcher like that, like [Trent] Appleby was most of his career, is very underappreciated,” Schlossnagle said. “Obviously, he just does a great job. He fields his position. The only way you beat him, is if he elevates the ball or you don’t play defense behind him.”
But Morrison’s performance Saturday was more than just a shiny box score – it was a remedy for a problem that’s been ailing the Frogs all season.
TCU’s top two starters – Stefan Crichton and Andrew Mitchell – have been solid. Finding a third and fourth starter has been an up-and-down process.
Brandon Finnegan, Trey Teakell, Jerrick Suiter and Nick Frey all earned starts on the mound before Morrison got the ball Saturday. That group had combined to go winless, leaving a gaping question mark in the Frogs’ starting rotation.
Morrison might have answered that question with his start on Saturday.
But was it enough to give him a permanent role as a starter?
“How do you not?” Schlossnagle said. “Preston is firmly entrenched.”