The first two rows of bleachers behind home plate at Shoreham-Wading River High School’s Kevin Williams Memorial Field were marked as reserved seating on Monday. They were set aside for pro scouts.
That could only mean one thing: Brian Morrell was scheduled to pitch.
Morrell is growing accustomed to pitching in front of scouts. Being the subject of extra sets of eyeballs and radar guns apparently doesn’t faze him much, though.
“Over the summer I’ve been in a lot of situations where scouts have been behind the plate, so I’m kind of used to it,” he said.
The scouts on hand saw a calm and composed Morrell, wearing high stirrups, popping pitches into the catcher’s glove and looking, well, like Morrell.
Three pitches into the game, though, Elwood/John Glenn had a runner at third base thanks to Anthony Tesi’s ground-rule double and a passed ball. One batter later, Tesi scored on a groundout by Joe Muchnicki. It was hardly the sort of beginning Morrell had envisioned, but then the senior righthander showed some of the stuff that last year earned him the Carl Yastrzemski Award, which goes to the best player in Suffolk County.
“You just have be calm and cool, even in those situations,” said Morrell.
With a four-run rally in the first inning, Shoreham triumphed, 4-1, bringing its overall and League VII record to 4-0 while Morrell bumped his pitching record up to 2-0. Glenn (1-2, 1-2) did a commendable job, getting five hits off Morrell.
“Our approach was to be very aggressive with him,” Glenn coach Matt Rocchio said. “When we had to work the counts, it was still productive because we got his pitch count up, which is what we wanted to do.”
After Greg Thornhill clubbed a one-out triple in the sixth on Morrell’s 86th pitch, the ace was pulled for Alex Angerman, who along with Steven Niski retired five of the last six Glenn batters. Morrell had six strikeouts and walked two.
“He looked great today,” Shoreham catcher Tom Brady said. “He wasn’t overthrowing. He was just being Brian Morrell. Everything was coming out nice and smooth. He was lighting up the guns like he always does.”
Morrell’s fastball topped out at 92 miles per hour and his breaking balls broke sharply.
“He’s a very dominant pitcher,” Brady said. “It’s very hard to find a way on base with him.”
Shoreham’s hitting was the team’s strongpoint in its three-game sweep of Mount Sinai, a series in which the Wildcats scored 23 runs. Shoreham coach Kevin Willi said he was seeing quality at-bats in that series, but feared the Wildcats strayed away from that on Monday.
“We’ve been having such good at-bats this year where we’ve been going deep in counts,” he said. “We’ve been waiting for the pitcher to make a mistake over the plate and really hitting it hard. But today we were trying to press a little bit, trying to go out and get some balls that were maybe not the best pitches to swing at. We were swinging at some changeups in the dirt first pitch where we were fooled. Really, I think we just got to reset our approach at the plate.”
Fortunately for Shoreham, it picked up all the scoring it needed in the first inning. Leadoff batter Kyle Baylous, who is 6-for-9 and has reached base 12 times in 15 plate appearances, started things by socking a first-pitch single. Morrell then walked and Nick Manesis smashed a single through the middle, tying the score at 1-1. A walk to Vincent Uzzi was followed by a Brady single for the go-ahead run. Manesis came home on a double play and Uzzi scored on a misplayed popup.
Glenn had a fine relief performance by freshman Matt Polestino, who hurled five scoreless innings in which the only hit he allowed was a standup double by Brady to lead off the third.
“He kept us in the game,” Rocchio said of Polestino.
A spotless 4-0 record is nice, but Willi said his team has things to work on. For one thing, he said, the defense needs to be cleaner, having made 12 errors in four games.
Still, the Wildcats sense they can do big things this season.
“We have great chemistry on this team right now,” Morrell said. “This team, I feel, is going to do something special toward the end [of the season]. I feel like we’re going to be a tough team to beat.”