WILDCATS 13, HURRICANES 5
A larger than normal crowd lined the first base side of Kevin Williams Memorial Field Thursday afternoon in Shoreham. The chatter before the first pitch centered on Shoreham-Wading River’s sudden pitching sensation, Brian Morrell.
“Is the freshman pitching?” one eager fan asked.
After Morrell tossed no-hitters in his first two varsity starts, both on the road, the Wildcats encountered their own version of Linsanity for their League VII game against Westhampton Beach.
Could the freshman really throw another no-hitter, which would equal a state record?
The question was answered on the first pitch of the game.
Westhampton shortstop Daniel McEvoy laid down a perfect bunt up the third base line on Morrell’s first pitch. Shoreham third baseman Tyler Osik, playing even with the bag, charged in to try to make the play. But the speedster raced down the line for a base hit, immediately sapping away the suspense.
“I thought I was going to throw another [no-hitter],” Morrell said afterward. “But it didn’t turn out that way.”
With the no-hitter over with, Morrell and the Wildcats had a more important task ahead: getting a win and snapping a two-game losing streak.
On a day where the defense was shaky and Morrell didn’t have his usual command, the offense carried the Wildcats to a much-needed, 13-5, victory.
“It was the biggest game of the year for us,” said Shoreham coach Sal Mignano. “It keeps us in the mix for the league title.”
Morrell, pitching in his fourth game, saw his hitless streak end at 17 innings. He had opened the season with 19 straight scoreless innings, but that streak came to an end as well in the first inning.
The Hurricanes scored twice in the first inning off Morrell. Two errors for the normally sure-handed defense didn’t help matters.
Morrell bounced back from the first bit of adversity on the mound he’s faced this season. He gave up a run in the second and two more in the fifth before being relieved by Kyle Pendergast for the final two innings.
Morrell’s ERA for the season rocketed up from 0.00 to 1.46. He struck out five, gave up six hits and walked five.
“He really did pitch well,” Mignano said. “His pitch count was higher than normal, simply because we didn’t play great defense behind him. They got a couple hits in key spots. But the errors extended innings.”
“This game I didn’t really located that well,” Morrell said, “but we still came out with a W.”
The Wildcats knew the Hurricanes had a fast leadoff hitter, but still, the first-pitch bunt caught Morrell by surprise.
“I thought he was going to come up swinging and all of a sudden he just put one down,” he said. “Never would have thought that.”
In some ways, it was a relief to have the suspense over with so quickly.
“The part you don’t like about them getting a hit so quickly is it led to two runs,” Mignano said. “I would have preferred the first hit to come in like the third or fourth inning when we’re up five.”
The Wildcats trailed 3-1 in the second inning but not for long.
A five-run frame in the bottom of the second, powered by a three-run home run from designated hitter John Montesano, put the Wildcats in front for good. Shoreham scored runs in all of the first five innings and every player in the lineup had at least one hit.
“We got a long lineup,” Mignano said.
Montesano, batting seventh, hit his third home run of the year, a towering fly ball that cleared the left field fence. The homer put the Wildcats ahead 4-3. He finished the game 2-for-4 with the home run and a double.
Off the bat, Montesano didn’t know he got it all on the homer.
“I had no clue until coach came out and started saying ‘that’s going out,’ ” Montesano, a junior in his first year on varsity, said.
Morrell did his part at the plate as well. He doubled to center field his first at-bat and came around to score on a single from Osik. Catcher Jack Massa, shortstop Matt Fox and first baseman Adam Piotrowski all had 2 RBIs.
“The lineup’s stacked,” Montesano said.
“Today got the confidence back in our lineup,” Mignano said.
The Wildcats scored only four runs in the first two games of the series against Westhampton, which were Shoreham’s first losses of the season.
The win kept Shoreham (11-2-1, 7-2 League VII) in a tie for first place with Bayport-Blue Point and put them a game ahead of the Hurricanes (8-6, 6-3 League VII).
“It was a great win,” Morrell said.