Any time Brian Morrell is handed a baseball, he is capable of throwing a no-hitter. The Shoreham-Wading River High School junior has already thrown three of them for the Wildcats, so when Islip went through the fourth inning without a hit off Morrell, one wondered if No-Hitter No. 4 was in the works.
We will never know. The plan was for Morrell to pitch only four innings in Saturday’s non-league game at Medford Athletic Complex. It was a tuneup for a more important game in the coming week when he will pitch against East Hampton in a Suffolk County League VII contest.
As tuneups go, though, it was mighty impressive. While Islip coach Jay Loviglio rested regular starters, Morrell (3-0) was evidently inspired by the nice weather. The righthander looked sharp and did not allow a hit in four scoreless innings of a 5-1 win. A radar gun showed Morrell’s overpowering fastball topping out at 90 miles per hour, but mostly firing in at 88. His curveballs and sliders danced in the wind, often leaving the Buccaneers swinging at air.
“It felt good,” said Morrell, who has committed to Notre Dame. “Everything was working.”
Morrell fanned six of the first seven batters. By the time he was relieved, he had recorded eight strikeouts (three on called third strikes).
The only batter to reach base on Morrell was Matt Crudele, who was hit by a pitch in the first inning. Morrell then retired the last nine batters he faced. He threw 60 pitches.
“He’s like that every game,” catcher Tom Brady said. “It’s very typical of him. … It’s nothing new.”
Morrell also offense to the table. One batter after Brady led off the fifth by slugging a double to deep center field, Morrell drove a home run over the center-field fence, making the score 4-0. It was his third homer of the season.
After retiring the side in the fourth, Morrell knew his pitching was done for the day.
“I knew I was going to [have] a short outing today because we have a league series that counts next week,” he said. “We didn’t want to go crazy with this.”
The next question was: Would Shoreham pitchers combine for a no-hitter?
Tyler Pepper, James Loesch and Zach White pitched an inning each to close the game out. The no-hit bid was spoiled by Crudele in the sixth when he looped a one-out single to right field, bringing home Tyler Glock for Islip’s only run.
It was the only hit for Islip, a League VI team that dropped to 9-8 overall.
Shoreham (10-4, 9-3) took a 2-0 lead on a squeeze bunt by Patrick Biemer in the second and successive singles by Morrell, Miles Kelly and Dalten Stalzer in the third.
After a pair of walks by Biemer and T.J. Sicoli to start the sixth, Alex Bettenhauser produced a bunt single, making it 5-1.
Second-place Shoreham, on the heels of Miller Place (10-2, 10-2), is seeking its first league title since 2012.
“We’re in a good position,” said coach Kevin Willi.
And having Morrell lead a starting pitching staff that includes Zach White and Brandon Bottari isn’t bad, either.
Morrell quickly made a name for himself as a freshman when he hurled no-hitters in his first two varsity starts. He has since added a third.
“He’s one of the best pitchers on Long Island, easily,” Brady said. “He’s composed all the time. You can give him bases loaded, no outs and the game-winning run on third and he’ll get you out of the inning.”
Others may look at him as Mr. No-Hitter, but Morrell said: “I just go out there and just try to compete and try to win ballgames for our team. I don’t try to focus on no-hitters, really. I try to win ballgames for this team.”
Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River junior Brian Morrell pitched four scoreless, hitless innings, striking out eight against Islip. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)