The home runs kept coming and the strikeouts continued to pile up. Shoreham-Wading River junior Brian Morrell was either setting school records by knocking balls out of the park or cruising through lineups with his 89-91 mph fastball.
“He’s one of the most complete players anyone will ever have the pleasure to watch play,” Shoreham-Wading River coach Kevin Willi said. “His best stuff is still ahead of him. He had a phenomenal season.”
Morrell led Shoreham-Wading River to a share of the Suffolk League VII title and an exciting playoff run that ended against Class A runner-up Rocky Point.
Morrell was intimidating on the mound. He compiled a 5-1 record and struck out 94 hitters in 49 innings and posted a 1.13 ERA. The opposition hit a meek .138 against him.
When he wasn’t putting the Wildcats in position to win with his right arm, he was swinging for the fences. He slammed a school-record 12 home runs, which led Long Island, and batted .405 with 17 extra-base hits, 30 hits total, 30 runs and 28 RBIs. His slugging percentage was 1.000.
For his accomplishments, Morrell became only the fourth junior in 49 years to earn the prestigious Carl Yastrzemski Award, given to Suffolk’s top player. The award, which is voted on by the Suffolk County Baseball Coaches Association, was presented at last night’s All-County banquet. He is the first junior to earn the award since Patchogue-Medford’s Marcus Stroman, who plays for the Toronto Blue Jays, in 2008.
Former Shoreham-Wading River standout Michael O’Reilly, who was drafted in the 27th round by St. Louis last week, earned the Yaz Award in 2012. Morrell, who wore O’Reilly’s No. 23, is the school’s third winner.
“It is an extremely humbling experience to be recognized for this award,” Morrell said. “I wouldn’t be where I am without the support of my family and all the Shoreham coaches and my teammates.”
Morrell’s season went into high gear when he drilled six home runs in a four-game span from May 5-12. His seventh-inning home run tied a playoff game against local rival Rocky Point and forced extra innings. The 400-foot blast left Rocky Point coach Andy Aschettino stupefied.
“Oh boy, what was I thinking, pitching to him at all?” Aschettino said, laughing, after Rocky Point’s extra-inning win. “He’s an amazing young man, a truly great player in this game. And he does it with such class.”
No bat flips necessary. Morrell prefers to play the game hard and enjoy himself. His mom, Toni-Jo, laughs at his calm demeanor and composure.
“I’m standing there nervous all the time and he’s just playing a game,” she said. “He makes it look easy, natural. But we do all the worrying. What I’m most proud of is his character. He’s a really good kid.”
There’s not much to worry about with Brian Morrell. The 6-foot, 190-pounder has given his verbal commitment to Notre Dame, and the professional scouts have started to call.
“He’s just an electric player, a game changer,” Willi said. “It’s fun to watch him play. It’s always what’s next. Is he going to crush a pitch out of sight? Is he going to strike out 19 in a game? He’s done all of that.”
Morrell, who will play his fifth year of varsity as a senior, has his sights set on a high school championship and the school’s career record for home runs. Former LSU and Texas Rangers farm hand Eric Strovink hit 25 home runs in his four-year career in the late 1980s. Morrell has 20 home runs.