There’s still a bitter taste that lingers in sophomore pitcher Matt Purke’s mouth after the 2010 season.
The taste of losing for a pitcher who went 16-0 his freshman season might be indescribable. That’s why he and his team take things 200 feet at a time after TCU’s first 2010 College World Series berth; they certainly don’t count the days, either, Purke said.
“Just the bitter taste of getting third instead of first [in the CWS],” Purke said. “We were one game away from the final series, so we’re looking to make it to that final series [in 2011] and win the whole thing.”
Purke has repeatedly said he never doubted his decision to sign with TCU instead of signing with the Texas Rangers out of Klein High School. He has the hardware to back up his claim: Consensus Freshman of the Year, Louisville Slugger and NCBWA Freshman Pitcher of the Year and Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year. Purke also led the nation for wins in a season and posted the second-highest strikeout total in school history with 142 Ks.
Purke didn’t lose a decision in 2010 NCAA postseason play.
While senior pitcher Steven Maxwell and junior Kyle Winkler struggled in the CWS, Purke kept the Frogs’ championship hopes alive with wins over Florida State and UCLA.
Head baseball coach Jim Schlossnagle sees where Purke is going into the 2011 season and where Purke was entering last season. The biggest jump in a college players career is not from freshman to senior, but freshman to sophomore, Schlossnagle said.
“He is light years ahead of where he was this time last year just mainly because of experience. I think he would tell you the same thing, I know he would,” Schlossnagle said. “And this time next year he’ll be even that much further along.”
That doesn’t mean Purke won’t have his struggles his sophomore season, nor will he be expected to have a perfect record, Schlossnagle added.
“I don’t expect him to go undefeated this season,” he said.
“He’s a big part of our team, but he’s no bigger than any other part to be honest with you. He’s our top starting pitcher at this point, but baseball is a really tough game to play, and he’s going to face adversity, he’s going to have bad days. It’s all about how you handle it, and that’s the biggest adjustment that he’s made.”
Purke said the pressure is no different this year after TCU’s first CWS berth, but the experience helps the entire team.
“There’s always pressure, people are always looking for you to do well, but we take it as a group effort, and we put all our individual efforts into a team goal,” Purke said. “For everyone to be in that [CWS] atmosphere and be around it, will be beneficial to us, and be beneficial to the young guys.
“We’ll be able to kinda guide them in and show them, “Hey, this is what we’ve been through. We’ve seen this situation before and this is how we handled it.'”
2011 could be Purke’s last season as a Horned Frog 8212; he’ll be eligible to enter the MLB Draft after he completes his second year of NCAA eligibility.
“Just have a lot of fun, enjoy being with these guys, we’re a big family, and enjoy being here and being apart of this program,” said Purke, referring to what could be his last season at TCU. “Just bring a trophy back to the city of Fort Worth.”