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Baseball: Yaz winner wants championships this year

Individual awards are awfully nice, and Brian Morrell has won some real nice ones, but this year the Shoreham-Wading River High School senior wants to win some other things: championships.

Whether they be league, county, Long Island, regional or state, Morrell wants his Shoreham baseball team to claim one championship after another.

“I want to go far this year,” he said during a break in Monday’s indoor practice. “I don’t want to end it just not winning a county championship. I want to win counties, I want to win the [Long Island championship], I want to win the states. I want to win everything.”

Those who know Morrell know better than to disregard what he says. Whenever he steps onto a baseball field, he is capable of doing just about anything. A five-year varsity starter at shortstop, Morrell threw back-to-back no-hitters in his first two varsity pitching starts as a freshman. He has thrown a third no-no since then.

But even those may pale a bit in comparison to the monster season Morrell had last year. He enjoyed one of the greatest seasons in Shoreham’s history, winning the Carl Yastrzemski Award, which since 1968 has been given annually to the top high school baseball player in Suffolk County. He became the third Shoreham player to receive the prestigious honor, joining the ranks of Keith Osik (1987) and Mike O’Reilly (2012).

It’s a rarity for a junior to be declared the Carl Yastrzemski Award winner, but Morrell’s statistics, both on the pitching mound and in the batter’s box, were impossible to ignore.

He went 5-1 as a pitcher with a 1.14 earned run average (0.87 for the regular season). Over 69 innings he registered 94 strikeouts, allowing 26 hits. Opposing batters hit .138 against him and he had a 0.84 WHIP.

“I feel like I did everything I could to win games,” said Morrell, who has signed to play for Notre Dame.

With a bat in his hand, Morrell belted a county-leading 12 home runs. “No one expected that,” said Morrell, who finished with a .405 batting average, 28 runs batted in and saw 17 of his 30 hits go for extra bases. “I did have some power, but I didn’t realize how I could use it.”

Coach Kevin Willi said: “In batting practice we saw it, but to put it together in a game is a different story. His exit velocity, the ball off the bat, is over a hundred miles an hour. It’s exploding off the bat. His hands through the zone are extremely fast.”

Asked how he would describe the season Morrell had last year, Willi answered: “Powerful, I would say. Powerful on the mound with him touching 90 miles an hour on the mound with that really hard-breaking, dragging curveball. At the plate, 12 home runs, not even fence-scrapers. He’s hitting the ball 40, 50 feet over the fence, so it was pretty fun to watch.”

Morrell, a 6-foot, 195-pound righthander, said his fastball reached up to 94 miles per hour this past summer. As overpowering as that may be, it is Morrell’s effective curveball that particularly impresses Willi.

“His curveball is dynamite, too,” the coach said. “I don’t think his curveball was hit in play last year.”

Willi said it’s fun coaching a player of Morrell’s ability. “I think the best part about it is he’s not a needy kind of kid,” Willi said. “He’s not a kid that demands attention, and he doesn’t even like that attention much. He’s the kind of kid who’s a leader. He’s just in general a good person. So, as far as star players go, he’s everything you can ask for, the complete package.”

Morrell could become only the second player to ever win the Carl Yastrzemski Award twice. Ron Witmeyer of East Islip achieved that feat in 1984 and 1985 before going on to play 11 games for the Oakland Athletics in 1991.

“I just want to make the most out of it because it’s my last year,” Morrell said. “I want to go out thinking I don’t have any regrets. I just want to go out and just play the game the right way and have a good season and hopefully win a state championship with this team.”

It would be a nice addition to his trophy case.

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Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River pitcher/shortstop Brian Morrell capped off a tremendous junior season by winning the Carl Yastrzemski Award. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk, file)