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Former Cuthbertson pitcher Morrison excels at TCU

SPORTS BBC-PEPPERDINE-TCU 2 FT
Richard W. Rodriguez - FORT WORTH (TEXAS) STAR-TELEGRAM
This season, Waxhaw resident Preston Morrison was 9-4, led the Big 12 with a 1.32 ERA, which was in the top 10 nationally, and earned All-America for the second time in his career.

Few thought Preston Morrison would play major-college baseball.

The former Cuthbertson High pitcher and Waxhaw resident excelled in high school but didn’t attract offers from area major-college programs, including North Carolina, N.C. State, South Carolina and Clemson.

Morrison’s recruiting saga began as a lanky 15-year-old when he showed up at On Deck Academy, a travel baseball program in Charlotte that plays in tournaments watched by college scouts. On Deck has three teams, an A-team, a B-team, and a C-team. Morrison was designated to the C-team.

“He was tall and undersized and skinny,” said his former On Deck coach Bo Robinson, now an assistant with UNC Charlotte’s 49ers. “But he was a worker. He had the ‘it’ factor.”

Each summer, Morrison improved and earned promotions – first from the C-team to the B-team and then from the B-team to the A-team.

“One of Preston’s greatest attributes is his patience,” his father, Tim Morrison, said. “You can see it on the mound. He doesn’t try to force things.”

Morrison had good location with his pitches, but with his velocity in the low-80s, college programs were hesitant to take a chance on him. At the end of his junior season, he had no offers.

“It is hard when you do so well and you don’t get looks,” Preston Morrison said from Omaha, Neb., where he is pitching for Texas Christian University in the College World Series.

“During one point in my junior summer season, I didn’t give up a run for four or five games and was pitching five or six innings a game.”

That changed in the summer of 2010 when Morrison faced an elite travel team from Texas in a showcase tournament in East Cobb, Ga.

“We were facing a team from Texas loaded with SEC talent and a guy who threw in the mid-90s, and there were probably 30 scouts in the stands,” Robinson said. “And Preston goes out there and sits them down one by one.”

After the game, Robinson was approached by TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle, who was scouting players on the other team.

“I told coach Schlossnagle, ‘No school is on (Morrison), but he does this every time he pitches,” Robinson said. “He makes good hitters look bad.”

Later that summer, Morrison made the 1,100-mile trip to Fort Worth, Texas. He spent time touring the baseball facilities, the campus and talking with students.

“He knew TCU was right for him,” Tim Morrison said.

Schlossnagle offered Morrison a preferred walk-on spot. He wasn’t guaranteed to make the roster in the spring unless he practiced well in the fall.

“I knew God had a plan for Preston,” Tim Morrison said. “I knew he would be seen by a coach that wasn’t looking through the eyes of a radar gun.”

Morrison earned a spot in the pitching rotation. His freshman year, he made 11 starts and finished with a 9-2 record and a 2.08 earned run average. He was the Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year and the conference Pitcher of the Year. Morrison also was named a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American.

His sophomore year, in a more competitive conference with the Big 12, he continued to improve. His 7-3 record was highlighted by a 1.51 ERA. He was a first-team All-Big 12 selection, both academically and athletically, and was named to the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team.

“I don’t play with a chip on my shoulder,” the 6-foot-2, 185-pound pitcher said. “I play for my teammates.”

This season, Morrison (9-4) led the league with a 1.32 ERA – top-10 nationally, and earned All-America accolades for the second time in his career. He is the first TCU pitcher to twice be honored as a conference Pitcher of the Year.

Last Sunday, in front of his father on Father’s Day, Morrison held off Texas Tech in his first career start in the College World Series. He struck out a career-high 10 batters in eight innings. Nerves weren’t an issue, but he admits that playing in the College World Series was surreal.

“I actually went out 15 minutes before I usually do,” he said. “I just sat in the dugout and took it all in. Once I started my pregame warmup, I really committed myself to treating it like a normal game.”

“I had a lot of pride watching him out there,” Tim Morrison said. “I have four children, each with unique gifts. Preston has a gift. It’s not a 95 mile-per-hour fastball, but for TCU that’s not what he needs to do.”

Morrison will be available to pitch on Friday night if TCU won its elimination game Thursday night against Ole Miss.

Shoff: 704-358-5928; Twitter: @curryshoff
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