The past year was a learning experience for former Mission Prep three-sport star Dylan Morrow.
Mainly, the San Jose State pitcher spent it learning just how big of a gap there is between the competition the Royals faced in Division V of the CIF-Central Section and what he saw in Division I college baseball.
The lessons continue at SLO Stadium for Morrow as he pitches for the San Luis Obispo Blues in the California Collegiate League this summer, but he is showing signs of progression, too.
In an 8-2 win by the Santa Barbara Foresters on Friday, Morrow (0-1) took the loss but had only allowed two runs through the first six innings.
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“It’s a big difference,” Morrow said of being thrown into the Western Athletic Conference as a true freshman after dominating at Mission Prep. “That’s a big jump. The hitters are a lot better, all the players are better. I was just focusing on getting the ball down, working all three of my pitches. It’s hard, but we have a good pitching coach, so, it was fun.”
In his freshman season at San Jose State, Morrow had no decisions and finished with an 8.27 ERA in 16 1⁄3 innings of relief. He gave up 26 hits, struck out 11 and walked eight in the limited action.
In Morrow’s junior year at Mission Prep, he sported a 2.31 ERA and struck out 40 batters in 39 1⁄3 innings while walking just 16.
The next fall, while he was starring for the Royals’ football team, Morrow made a commitment to play baseball at San Jose State rather than listen to then-Cal Poly football coach Rich Ellerson, who was recruiting Morrow to walk on at quarterback.
His senior baseball season was marred by injury.
But once Morrow got into a Spartans uniform, he quickly found out that firing fastballs up in the zone might have worked against the likes of Fowler High but not Fresno State.
The same raw athleticism that got his Babe Ruth team to the World Series — the same athleticism he flashed in a Mission Prep football game in which he was responsible for a video game-worthy nine touchdowns — needed to be polished.
And it appears to have been now that he’s further developed his changeup and curve.
“He’s just a more refined pitcher,” said Blues manager Chal Fanning, who watched Morrow pitch out of the pen for the Blues last summer. “He’s always been that good athlete and that great competitor. He’s a good pitcher, even in high school, but working with coach (Tom) Kunis up there at San Jose State, who is one of the best pitching coaches in the country, he’s really been refined, and he really made some pitches tonight.”
He’s made two starts for the Blues, his first starts since getting hurt early in his senior season at Mission Prep, and on paper Morrow’s previous appearance was the better one.
He allowed just one run on two hits in five innings to earn a no-decision against the Folsom Pioneers last week.
Against the Foresters, Morrow was charged with five runs in six innings. He started the seventh looking good but was chased on a two-run double by outfielder Jared Womack, his second of the game.
Womack was 3 for 3 against Morrow with two doubles and four RBI. No other Santa Barbara player drove in a run against Morrow. The fifth charged run scored against reliever J.D. Salles, who redshirted at Fresno State this past season.
Coming into the game with a 1.80 ERA and a .142 average against, Morrow left it with a 4.90 ERA. He might have come out of the game sooner, but with the Blues still waiting for players to come in from the college postseason, Fanning is leaning on his starters.
“We’re trying to eek every pitch out of them, and I thought Dylan did a great job tonight,” Fanning said. “It was just unfortunate that one inning just kind of blew up.
“He definitely made a really, really nice adjustment from his last start, and I thought he pitched much better tonight against a really good club. It was nice to see. I’m looking forward that he’s continuing to do that the rest of the summer.”
The Spartans are hoping Morrow eventually blossoms into a starter, and much of his progression toward that goal has got to happen this offseason.
He certainly has more time to work towards it. He no longer has to worry about football training camp or summer league basketball, the third sport he played at Mission Prep.
Morrow says he still misses football, but after choosing to take the scholarship money, he’s solely focused on learning his baseball lessons.
“It’s different playing baseball all year long instead of different sports,” Morrow said, “but it’s good to focus on one thing.”