WILDCATS 4, PANTHERS 0
Brian Morrell did it again.
Incredibly, eight days after pitching a no-hitter in his first varsity start for the Shoreham-Wading River High School baseball team, the 15-year-old freshman turned in a repeat performance on Saturday. In his first pitching appearance since that memorable no-hitter against Mount Sinai, Morrell hurled another one, this time shutting down Miller Place’s bats in a 4-0 victory.
After a Morrell pitch froze Jake Hansen for a called third strike and the game’s final out, Morrell trotted off the Miller Place High School field and into coach Sal Mignano’s arms before receiving hugs from teammates.
“I was like, ‘How did I just do this?’ ” Morrell said. “It was a great experience — for the second time, too. It was just amazing.”
Mignano said he has never before had a pitcher throw no-hitters in consecutive outings during his 38-year reign as the Wildcats’ coach.
“Maybe right now we don’t realize the magnitude of the accomplishment,” he said. “I think we’ll look back on it in a couple of years and go, ‘It’s just incredible.’ ”
In the 19 innings Morrell has pitched this season, he has not allowed a run to score and has given up only a few hits.
“He’s a machine, man,” said Shoreham center fielder Chris Moran.
Moran, one of Shoreham’s nine seniors, said he knew Morrell was this kind of a pitcher. “He’s got good everything,” Moran said. “He’s got a good change, a good fastball, a good slider. A batter doesn’t know what he’s going to throw and he throws hard, too.”
With his first no-hitter still fresh in his mind, Morrell said he felt nerves, but that experience helped him this time, regardless.
Morrell (2-0), the No. 3 pitcher in Shoreham’s starting rotation, walked six batters against eight strikeouts as part of his 101-pitch performance. The right-hander also received help from his friends. The Suffolk County League VII-leading Wildcats (10-0-1, 6-0) turned two double plays and played exceptional defense, without committing an error.
“Without my team, I couldn’t have done this,” Morrell said. “This is a special group, really.”
Miller Place’s first at-bat of the game easily could have been a hit if not for third baseman Tyler Osik’s nifty bare-handed pickup and throw from a Joe Riso ground ball.
Morrell helped his own cause in the second inning by pitching himself out of a jam with two runners in scoring position as a result of walks. He picked up all three outs on strikeouts.
In the third, it was Morrell himself coming through with a big fielding play. Vinny Bua bounced a chopper in front of home plate; Morrell did well to collect the ball and fire a throw to first baseman Adam Piotrowski for the out.
Miller Place (5-6, 3-3) threatened again in the fifth. With two outs and two runners on base, Shoreham shortstop Matt Fox did well to glove a grounder hit up the middle by Riso and then lunge to get his glove on second base for an inning-ending forceout.
“The defense was outstanding,” said Mignano.
And the offense wasn’t bad, either. The Wildcats supplied nine hits worth of offense, including two apiece by Moran and Morrell.
The Wildcats put up two runs in the second. Jack Massa, who led off with a single, scored on a groundout by Zach Parilla. Piotrowski tagged a run-scoring single for the second run.
Moran led off the fifth by shooting a single to center field. Osik brought him home with a sacrifice fly.
A run-scoring double by Moran in the sixth gave the Wildcats another insurance run.
The Wildcats are rolling. The win was their eighth in a row.
Morrell said he may never have been as nervous as he was in the seventh inning with a second straight no-hitter on the line. Those nerves didn’t show, though. Morrell retired the side in order, getting Andrew Lutjen to pop up and T. J. Drumerhauser to ground out before the game-ending strikeout.
“After the first [no-hitter] there was a lot of texting and emails and phone calls,” Mignano said, “but I can imagine what it’s going to be like after today because nobody can expect that from anybody.”
Morrell’s next starting assignment is scheduled for Thursday at home against Westhampton Beach.
On a day when it seemed as if Morrell could do just about anything, one thing he couldn’t do was compare his two no-hitters. He started to answer that question before stopping himself and saying, “They’re no-hitters.”