Shoreham-Wading River’s entry into the Suffolk County Class A baseball finals was, in a word, grand.
With a place in the finals within its grasp, Shoreham-Wading River came out swinging and left no doubt about the outcome. The Wildcats scored 14 runs from 13 hits in the first two innings alone Saturday. That included a 10-run explosion in the second inning, which was highlighted by grand slams from Dean Stalzer and Brian Morrell. For Morrell, it was already his second home run of the game and sixth of the year as the top-seeded Wildcats eliminated No. 4 Mount Sinai from the double-elimination tournament, 16-4, at Kevin Williams Memorial Field in Shoreham. Mount Sinai’s other playoff loss also came to Shoreham, 3-2, on Wednesday.
With its 19th straight win, Shoreham (22-1) tied the team record for most wins in a season, equaling the mark set by the 1987 state champion team that went 22-7, according to coach Kevin Willi.
Shoreham will continue its pursuit of what would be its eighth county championship and first since 2012 when it hosts the opener of the best-of-three finals on Wednesday. The Wildcats will face either No. 3 Rocky Point or No. 7 Bayport-Blue Point.
A team packed with 17 seniors and tremendous depth, Shoreham is built to win now.
“We have 25 kids that can play at any other high school and start every game,” one of those seniors, designated hitter Jon Luppens, said. “It’s ridiculous. Our team is phenomenal.”
And it all starts with their star pitcher, Morrell (9-0). The senior, who will play for Notre Dame, has thrown three no-hitters this year, giving him six for his career.
As tremendous as Morrell the pitcher is, Morrell the batter was even better Saturday against Mount Sinai (15-9), ripping a pair of opposite-field homers in his first two at-bats for six RBIs.
“That’s just a Brian thing,” said Luppens, who had two hits and two RBIs himself. “He can do that anywhere.”
Shoreham made 14 plate appearances in the second. Stalzer’s grand slam, the first four of the five runs he drove in, came six batters before Morrell went deep with a grand slam of his own.
“That was the highlight of the game right there,” Morrell told reporters after signing baseballs for youngsters. “He hit the grand slam and then a few batters later I come up and hit another grand slam. It doesn’t happen really that often. Two grand slams in one inning is amazing.”
It was that kind of a day for Shoreham, which finished with 16 hits, including three by Vincent Uzzi. In addition, Kyle Baylous and Stalzer had two hits each.
“We had a great batting practice today and I saw everyone had this look in their eye that they were ready to go,” said Luppens.
Shoreham nearly had another home run, but pinch hitter Miles Kelly was robbed in the sixth by centerfielder D.J. Gatz, who grabbed Kelly’s deep drive as he tumbled over the fence.
“We get as many swings as we possibly can before a game, and that definitely helped,” said Morrell, who also scored four runs and walked. “We were definitely locked in.”
Morrell the pitcher allowed seven hits in addition to issuing six walks and hitting a batter. The righthander, who threw 96 pitches over six innings, had six strikeouts. Steven Niski pitched a scoreless seventh despite hitting two batters. “My command was pretty bad today,” said Morrell.
By winning its first three playoff games, Shoreham has taken the easiest and most direct route to the finals.
Stalzer, who has six home runs this year, was asked what was the best aspect of this win.
“Just coming out hot like we planned to do,” he said. “We put up a big four in the first and then just kept tagging on in the second inning. We knew Mount Sinai wasn’t going to just lay down and let us have it, so our mind-set was, we were really focused today.”
For Shoreham, the final result was just grand.
Photo caption: Mount Sinai’s R.J. Kehoe (4) trots off while Shoreham-Wading River players celebrate the team’s 19th straight win. (Credit: Bob Liepa)