Updated: July 3, 2014 6:28AM
In his senior year of high school Jerrick Suiter was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays. Tempting though it was, he opted to refine his skills elsewhere.
“I felt like I needed to go to college and get some experience,” said Suiter, now a junior at Texas Christian. “I still feel like I’m a raw player.”
Suiter chose TCU over South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Alabama. Notice they’re all southern schools. That’s because the Valparaiso grad preferred a warm-weather climate to pursue his baseball dream.
“I took a ton of visits on weekends during my junior and senior year,” said Suiter, who picked the campus in Fort Worth because it was the most comfortable fit and a track record which includes a World Series appearance.
In 2010 the Horned Frogs set a school record of 54 victories and were ranked No. 3 nationally. They have made 12 regional appearances and were seeded No. 8 nationally in the ongoing tournament.
Suiter’s the only Hoosier on TCU’s roster, but shows no signs of being homesick. He made an immediate impact as a freshman. The third-team high school All-American introduced himself with a .310 average, then regressed as a sophomore before bouncing back this spring.
“I wouldn’t say I’ve completely snapped out of it,” he said, “but it’s improving.”
Coach Jim Schlossnagle has used him mostly as a DH, but Suiter has also played three outfield positions and first base. .
Any preference? “Honestly, I don’t care as long as I’m in the lineup somewhere,” said the three-year starter.
Suiter even made six pitching appearances in his freshman year, but a return to the mound appears to be unlikely.
“It’s something I could go back to if needed,” he said, “but not with the pitching staff we have now.”
TCU’s pitching staff took a 2.26 ERA into its regional, which it hosted for the fourth time. Preston Morrison and Brandon Finnegan have been named Louisville Slugger All-Americans. Tyler Alexander and Jordan Kipper complete the staff of 8-to-9 game winners.
In the Big 12 Tournament Suiter broke loose to drive in runs in all four victories. His heroics produced TCU’s first Big 12 championship and their seventh overall title, including past efforts in two other conferences.
Suiter contributed a spectacular .687 on-base percentage, going 11-for-16, including five walks. He figured in 11 runs (six RBI, scoring five) to earn tournament offensive honors.
TCU knocked off favored Oklahoma State 7-1 in the final game.
“They won the regular-season,” said the former Duneland Conference MVP, “but we had the right mind-set to win the tournament.”
Credit Suiter’s surge to being more selective at the plate.
“I was just trying to see a lot of pitches to get on base any way I could,” he said.
Suiter is peaking at the right time, but seemed reluctant to pat himself on the back when asked about it.
Being a designated hitter requires a special mentality. Sitting for long stretches between trips to the plate calls for a disciplined approach. Selective amnesia is helpful, especially after a bad at-bat.
“It’s tough at first,” concedes Suiter. “You don’t get to the outfield to get release from hitting. It’s something I had to figure out. Absolutely, baseball is a mental game.”
Establishing a routine to create a consistent comfort zone is important.
“It keeps me locked in on what I have to do,” he said.
Pro baseball could be in his future, but is the farthest thing from Suiter’s mind. His focus is get the Horned Frogs to Omaha, college baseball’s Mecca.
To advance in the regional they needed 11 innings to subdue Siena, then outlasted Sam Houston State in an exhausting 6-hour and 54-minute, 22-inning marathon to take a 44-15 record into Sunday’s late game.
Going in to the regionals the thought crossed my mind that TCU could cross paths with Indiana. What a celebration of Northwest Indiana baseball that would be. The Hoosiers, sparked by IU’s Dustin DeMuth (LaPorte) and Scott Donley (Crown Point) won their first two regional games. All three were amiable Duneland Conference rivals.
“I played summer baseball with Scott on the Indiana Bulls,” said Suiter, who was a three-sport standout. Buddies? “It’s not like we’re best friends, but we talk every once in a while.”
Department of what if?
Ever wonder why the White Sox signed John Danks to a multi-year contract, but let ageless Mark Buerhle get away? Me too.
Since he departed after the 2011 season the laid-back lefty has extended his record to 13 straight 30-start, 200-inning report cards, starting with a 13-13 record at Miami.
Buehrle’s next victory at Toronto, where he’s 21-11 in the last two years will give him 14 straight seasons of at least 10 wins. Currently 9-1, this under-appreciated Methuselah of the mound should be locked in for his fifth All-Star appearance.
Meanwhile, Danks has mostly watched from the sidelines. Because of shoulder surgery he has managed just 10 wins over the same stretch as his former teammate.