Preston Morrison pitched his second consecutive complete game shutout and Kevin Cron had the Frogs’ first four-hit game of the season as the TCU baseball team opened its series with the Kansas State Wildcats Friday night with a 5-0 win.
Morrison’s gem of a game extended TCU’s winning streak to ten games and improved its overall record to 32-13 (11-5 Big 12), much to the delight of TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle.
“(Morrison’s) poise is just so much fun to watch,” Schlossnagle said. “What more can you say? A pitcher like Preston doesn’t come around very often.”
“Everybody that walks in this ballpark needs to be appreciative of the career he’s having,” he said.
Morrison, a junior from Waxhaw, N.C., had seven strikeouts on the evening and only allowed one walk as he improved his record to 7-3 on the year.
His changeup fooled Kansas State hitters all night long, and despite giving up seven hits, no Wildcat reached third base. Morrison induced ground ball after ground ball to give his stellar infield defenders chances to make plays.
As good as he looked, Morrison said that he had room for improvement.
“It wasn’t my best, but I felt good,” Morrison said. “I was able to make pitches when I needed to.”
“We got some early runs, and that really helps me to just go after guys,” he said.
Those runs were a welcome sign for the TCU pitching staff, as the majority of the Frogs’ wins during their torrid 16-1 April came as a result of dominant efforts on the mound rather than at the plate.
TCU hitters were able to get to KSU starter Levi MaVorhis early on, and big days from first baseman Cron and left fielder Boomer White enabled the Frogs to build an early lead.
After a scoreless first inning, Cron led off the second with a single to left field. An error by KSU second baseman Carter Yagi on a Garrett Crain grounder allowed Cron and Crain to reach easily.
Junior Jerrick Suiter blasted a double to left to score Cron, and a Dylan Fitzgerald single up the middle scored Crain and gave the Frogs a 2-0 lead with no outs.
The bottom of the third saw more action for TCU, as Boomer White kick-started the offense with a two-out double. Cron followed with a double of his own on a ball that got lost in the sun and was misplayed by KSU’s outfield to bring White home and extend the lead.
“We call those ‘free doubles,’” Cron said. “You get a double and an RBI, and we’ll take those any way we can get them.”
The fourth and fifth innings saw no scoring from either team, but TCU tacked another run on in the sixth.
White singled up the middle on the first pitch of the inning, executed a perfect hit and run with Cron to move to third and scored on a Crain pop fly to give the Frogs a 4-0 lead.
KSU finally threatened to score in the seventh inning. First baseman Shane Conlon drew a leadoff walk and right fielder Mitch Meyer singled to left to give the Wildcats men on first and second with no outs.
What happened next could not have gone better for the Frogs.
An attempted double steal was snuffed out by an excellent throw to third by catcher Kyle Bacak for the first out. Morrison then threw a filthy changeup to pinch hitter Kyle Speer on a full count for a called third strike, and Eric Garza popped out in deep foul territory to preserve the shutout.
KSU used three different pitchers in the seventh inning, yet TCU still added on to their lead with a two-out rally.
Cody Jones legged out an infield single, which prompted KSU manager Brad Hill to bring on Jordan Floyd to replace MaVorhis. Floyd walked the only batter he faced, Derek Odell, on five pitches before Jon Roblez took the mound for the Wildcats.
Jones and Odell executed a double steal, and an error on the throw to second from catcher Blair DeBord allowed Jones to score the final run of the game.
Two excellent defensive plays from shortstop Keaton Jones kept the Wildcats from scoring in the eighth and ninth innings, and the Frogs celebrated the win by sending Morrison out for a well-deserved round of applause from the TCU crowd.
The two teams meet again for the second game of the series on Saturday at 4 p.m. from Lupton Stadium.