Soon after Taylore Baker threw consecutive no-hitters in his first two varsity starts in 2008, the Canton, Ohio, teen and his father began researching who else had ever accomplished the feat.
They started by looking through the Ohio state record books. They also searched the Internet for a match elsewhere in the country.
They found no one. Until now.
Shoreham-Wading River freshman Brian Morrell became the first pitcher in school history to ever begin his career as a varsity starter by throwing back-to-back no-hitters. In fact, no underclassman in school history had ever thrown consecutive no-hitters.
“No way, definitely not,” said Shoreham-Wading River baseball coach Sal Mignano, who has guided the program since its first year of varsity ball in 1977. “It’s incredible.”
At least six other varsity pitchers across the country threw no-hitters in their first varsity start this season, including Carle Place junior Mike Delio, who struck out all 21 batters in a perfect game April 1. None of the six — a list of athletes from New Jersey to Ohio to Oklahoma — repeated the feat in their second varsity start.
Matt Crohan recorded back-to-back no-hitters as a senior for Riverhead in his first two starts last season, but he already had two years of varsity experience by that point. Half Hollow Hills East graduate Stephen Woods is the only other Suffolk County pitcher to throw consecutive no-hitters the past two seasons.
At Shoreham-Wading River, only two other varsity pitchers have ever hurled multiple no-hitters in their careers, Mignano said. Southpaw Chip Pidgeon threw consecutive no-hitters in 1997, a feat he accomplished against Connetquot as a senior, according to Newsday.
It’s the other Wildcats pitcher to throw two career no-hitters whose history Morrell follows most closely: Major League catcher Keith Osik. Morrell said a story Tyler Osik, Keith’s son and the Wildcats’ current third baseman, once told him about his dad’s two no-hitters has been a major motivator for him. Osik’s first no-hitter was a perfect game against Westhampton Beach on April 7, 1986. Then, on May 14, 1987, he came within one pitch of a perfect game when he walked the next-to-last batter on a full count with two out in the seventh inning against Rocky Point, according to Newsday. Osik, who was in attendance for both of Morrell’s no-hitters, would go on to pitch 27 scoreless innings his senior postseason en route to the Wildcats’ only state championship.
On the eve of his first career start April 11, Morrell approached Tyler Osik at practice and said, “I think I’m going to pitch a no-hitter tomorrow.”
It wasn’t until the fifth inning of the 3-0 win over Mount Sinai that the third baseman looked up at the scoreboard that Osik said he realized his teammate was “actually … throwing a no-hitter.”
That’s two innings earlier than Morrell’s catcher, Jack Massa, realized it. He said it wasn’t until he heard whispers from the crowd sitting behind home plate in the seventh and final inning that he realized he was catching history.
Mignano said he recognized something special much earlier in the game when, in the third inning, he looked at assistant coach Kevin Willi and they nodded to each other as if to acknowledge the potential no-hitter, but not to jinx it. Of course, in the spirit of great baseball superstitions, not a word was spoken of either no-hitter until after the final pitches were thrown.
“If one of the players said a word, I would have sent them to the bus,” Mignano said with a laugh.