Purke has TCU well-armed
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- His TCU teammates call him "Harry Potter." Yes, you could say Matt Purke is a wizard. The left-hander stands out not just because of his glasses or the way he wears his straight-billed cap at a jaunty angle. For all his quirks...
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- His TCU teammates call him "Harry Potter."
Yes, you could say Matt Purke is a wizard.
The left-hander stands out not just because of his glasses or the way he wears his straight-billed cap at a jaunty angle. For all his quirks, Purke has become college baseball's dominant freshman one year after turning down millions as the Texas Rangers' top draft pick in 2009.
He'll introduce Florida State and a national television audience to his 97-mph fastball Saturday when the Horned Frogs make their first appearance in the College World Series. Purke brings in a nation-leading 14-0 record and 3.23 ERA, and coach Jim Schlossnagle said he has no worries about the 19-year-old handling the pressure.
The 6-foot-4, 180-pounder is coming off an 11-strikeout, three-hit performance over 7 2-3 innings in the super regional opener at Texas. Schlossnagle said the environment in Omaha will be much friendlier than it was in Austin.
"What we just went through at the University of Texas against a great team, great program, great coach and a crowd that was very anti-TCU, he handled it very well," Schlossnagle said.
TCU (51-12) and Florida State (47-18) will open the final series at Rosenblatt Stadium before the event moves to a new downtown stadium in 2011. Saturday night's Bracket 1 game pits a pair of national seeds in No. 3 Florida (47-15) and No. 6 UCLA (48-14).
Bracket Two play opens Sunday with Oklahoma (49-16) meeting South Carolina (48-15) followed by No. 1 national seed Arizona State (52-8) taking on Clemson (43-23).
Purke, the 14th overall pick in last year's draft, said he's had no regrets about turning down $4 million from the Rangers and heading to TCU.
"It's been a great year," he said. "We had a really good team, and to make it to the College World Series for the first time in our school's history is awesome. We're excited to be here, but we also know it's business. We don't want to come here just to be in it. We want to win it."
Just as TCU surely will be adopted as the favorite among Omaha fans -- the locals always have loved first-time qualifiers and underdogs -- Purke will add to his fan following if for no other reason than his unique style.
"I feel every ballplayer has his own look, and this is my look, and it's working for me," Purke said, "so I'm not going to get rid of it."
What about that cap, tilted to his right?
"When I put a hat on, that's how it goes no matter what kind of hat it is," Purke said. "If I put it on straight, it feels really weird."
Schlossnagle can vouch for Purke on that.
"I've seen pictures of him as an 8-, 9-, and 10-year-old little boy, and that's what he does," he said. "I think it has something to do with the gravitational pull of the earth and him being left-handed somehow."
Purke is supported by the most offensive team in TCU history. The Mountain West Conference champion Frogs are batting a CWS-best .340 and have hit a school-record 92 home runs. Each of the everyday players is batting .303 or better, and six have at least 45 RBIs.
Florida State is in the CWS for the 20th time and still looking for its first national title. The Seminoles will match sophomore left-hander Sean Gilmartin (9-7, 4.89) against Purke.