Two years ago, Shoreham-Wading River pitcher Brian Morrell took the mound at Bayport-Blue Point High School in a Suffolk County Class A final and threw one dominant inning after the next.
He would end up hurling seven shutout innings that afternoon, but the Wildcats returned home defeated after the Phantoms scored the game’s only run on a walk-off single off a relief pitcher in the eighth.
It was a heartbreaking defeat, surely on the minds of the Shoreham-Wading River players who were around to witness it, as the team returned to the same field Friday — once again a win away from securing the school’s eighth county championship.
This time the Wildcats wouldn’t be denied. Senior catcher Tom Brady smacked a two-run home run in the first inning and Morrell followed with a grand slam in the second to erase any doubt that the Wildcats would celebrate its first county baseball title since 2012. Shoreham-Wading River ultimately walked off the field 8-1 winners.
“For some of us it’s been three years, and twice we came so close,” Brady said of the elusive championship. “We wanted it real bad and we finally did it. It means the world.”
As has been the case for much of his storied high school career, Morrell was at the center of the Wildcats’ victory Friday. He pitched a complete game, surrendering one run on four hits and striking out 10. For as effective as he was on the mound, the senior did his best work at the plate with the grand slam — his second of the postseason — and a ground-rule double. Morrell finished the game 3-for-5 with four runs batted in and two runs scored.
“We played the whole year, five times against [Bayport] so we know how tough a team they can be,” Morrell said afterward. “This was tough to do, but we finally did it. Now we have to keep it going.”
The Wildcats (24-1) will next play the winner of the Nassau County Class A finals, a best-of-three series set to begin Saturday between Wantagh (18-4) and Garden City (19-4-1). The Nassau champ will host Shoreham-Wading River, with Morrell back on the mound, in the Long Island Championship at noon on Saturday, June 3 at SUNY Old Westbury. A victory would punch the Wildcats’ first ticket to the state semifinals in 30 years.
“Getting this far has been a goal of ours since January,” said Shoreham-Wading River head coach Kevin Willi. “We knew we had the talent and this is just a big relief and a joy.”
Willi said he felt that in order to defeat the Phantoms Friday, it was important for the Wildcats to jump out to the early lead. Brady’s two-run blast came just three batters into the contest.
“Those two dingers put us in such a good position,” Willi said of the home runs from Brady and Morrell.
Brady secured his third RBI on a sacrifice fly to deep center field in the top of the fourth inning, scoring teammate T.J. Sicoli for a 7-1 lead. The final run was scored on a single by Vincent Uzzi, plating Jon Luppens one inning later.
Morrell, who has committed to play at the University of Notre Dame next season and has thrown six no-hitters in his four-year varsity career, wasn’t at his sharpest Friday, but he still managed to avoid trouble for most of the afternoon. He gave up the lone Bayport-Blue Point run on a single in the bottom of the second inning and escaped a bases loaded jam in the sixth. He would end up striking out four of the final six batters he faced.
“He’s an electric player,” Willi said of his star, who is now 10-0 on the mound this season, drawing the attention of Major League scouts and putting him in strong consideration for a rare second Yastrzemski Award — given each year to Suffolk’s top baseball player.
But for Morrell, who has long desired to bring a state title home to Shoreham-Wading River for the first time since 1987, there’s still unfinished business on the diamond.
“We don’t want to stop now,” he said. “We have to get everyone pushing again next week and keep fighting.”
Brady said he thinks this team, which has now won 21 consecutive games, is destined for even more titles.
“As long as we stay together as a team, it’s gonna be tough for anyone to beat us,” he said. “We’re rolling right now. This team is hot.”