Brian Morrell considers himself a huge Notre Dame basketball fan. So it didn’t hurt when on a recruiting visit to the famed university in Indiana, the Fighting Irish basketball coach, Mike Brey, offered to speak with Morrell.
“I had a 45-minute conversation with him, talking about Notre Dame and the baseball program and how I could practice with the basketball team,” said Morrell, who’s heading into his junior season at Shoreham-Wading River.
This week, Morrell, a two-time all-state pitcher/shortstop, made a verbal commitment to attend Notre Dame and play on the baseball team starting in the 2017-18 season.
His commitment, which can’t be formalized with a signed letter of intent until his senior year, capped a recruiting process that began as far back as eighth grade, Morrell said. He chose Notre Dame over schools like Duke, University of North Carolina, Clemson, Wake Forest and Vanderbilt, he said.
“It gets a little crazy with how the whole process goes,” Morrell said. “You can pitch one game and then 20 schools call you and you get bombarded with everything. But it’s pretty cool to be honest.”
Morrell joined the varsity at Shoreham in eighth grade and pitched back-to-back no-hitters in his first two varsity starts as a freshman. This past season, he was equally dominant at the plate as on the mound and threw a third career no-hitter.
He batted .416 with 5 home runs and 28 RBIs. In 52 1/3 innings pitched, he posted a 0.677 ERA with 69 strikeouts. In the third game of the county championship series against Bayport-Blue Point, he pitched seven shutout inning before the team ultimately lost in the eighth.
At Notre Dame, Morrell expects to be a two-way player, allowing him to pitch and play the field. He said the idea of playing multiple positions was a big draw.
Notre Dame originally recruited him as a shortstop. Some schools only wanted him to pitch, he said.
“One college said I would use my bat as firewood,” he said. “I didn’t go for that college.”
At Notre Dame, Morrell will join program that reached the NCAA Regional last season for the first time in nine years. The team competes in the Atlantic Coast Conference and last year posted a 37-23 overall record.
Morrell said he a strong connection with Notre Dame’s pitching coach, Chuck Ristano, a Long Island native who played baseball at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut.
“Everything there, the baseball facilities, is just amazing,” said Morrell, who will get the chance to attend the football team’s season opener against Texas in September at Notre Dame Stadium.
It’s been a busy summer for Morrell, traveling to tournaments across the country with his Perfect Game travel team. A scouting report from a Junior National Showcase event in Florida listed Morrell’s fastball as up to 88 mph. He can also throw a curveball, slider and change-up.
“Solid two-way prospect tools,” the report says.
Morrell has spent most of the summer playing the in the field to give his arm some rest.
“I want to keep my arm healthy,” he said.
Looking ahead two years, there’s a chance Morrell could be selected in the Major League Baseball Draft. For now, he envisions himself fulfilling his commitment to Notre Dame, unless he got selected in one of the first five rounds.
Players selected in the fifth round in the most recent draft in June received signing bonuses in the $300,000 range, according to MLB.com.
“UND is offering me the best education and athletics,” Morrell said. “I don’t want to waste that opportunity.”
After Morrell made his commitment, it didn’t take long for word to spread. His phone has been bombarded with text messages and phone calls as people congratulate him, he said.
The news spread even faster than he had hoped. Before he could call some of the other schools recruiting him, the news had already hit Twitter.
“It just broke out,” he said. “It was crazy. It was like a wildfire.”