Brian Morrell was caught by surprise when his coach, Kevin Willi, encouraged him to prepare a speech in advance of the Suffolk County Coaches Association all-county dinner Wednesday night.
“He said, ‘Oh, really?’ ” Willi recalled with a laugh. “I said ‘You’re one of the eight candidates up for the [Yastrzemski] award. You should have something ready just in case.’ He was just really surprised.”
Turns out Willi was correct.
Morrell, a standout pitcher and infielder for Shoreham-Wading River, was honored with the prestigious Carl Yastrzemski Award Wednesday night at Villa Lombardi’s in Holbrook. The award has been given annually to the top baseball player in Suffolk County since 1968.
“I knew there was tons of great talent on Long Island,” Morrell said. “To get an award like this is a great honor.”
Morrell became only the third Shoreham player to win the award and first since Mike O’Reilly in 2012. O’Reilly was just drafted last weekend by the St. Louis Cardinals after a four-year career at Flagler College. Keith Osik, who played 10 seasons in the big leagues, is the only other Shoreham player to win the award. He won in 1987.
In his fourth year on varsity, Morrell compiled one of the best individual seasons in program history this spring, leading Suffolk County in both home runs (12) and strikeouts (94). He was equally dominant at the plate as on the mound, where he posted a 5-1 record with a 1.139 ERA (0.87 in the regular season).
He batted .405, drove in 28 runs and hit 17 extra-base hits.
On the mound, opponents batted .138 against him. He ended the season with a 0.843 WHIP.
A junior, Morrell is committed to play at the University of Notre Dame. With one more varsity season to go, he could become just the second player to win the Yastrzemski Award twice. Ron Witmeyer of East Islip, who won it in 1984 and 1985, is the only player to repeat as the winner. Witmeyer played 11 games with the Oakland Athletics in 1991.
Morrell became an instant sensation for the Wildcats when he threw no-hitters in his first two varsity starts as a freshman. He hasn’t let up since, helping to lead the team into the postseason each year. The Wildcats went 2-2 in the playoffs this season, falling in 12 innings to Rocky Point in a game where the winner advanced into the county finals. Morrell threw eight innings that game, striking out 10 and giving up two earned runs.
Morrell is the third local to win the award since 2012. Former Riverhead pitcher Matt Crohan, who was also drafted this past weekend by the Cincinnati Reds, won the award in 2013.
Top Photo Caption: Brian Morrell pictured with varsity coach Kevin Willi (left) and former Shoreham-Wading River coach Sal Mignano. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)