By Bill Landon
Slamming home a win was exactly what Shoreham-Wading River’s baseball team did.
Wildcats ace Brian Morrell, and first baseman Dean Stalzer both hit grand slams in a 10-run second inning to lead Shoreham-Wading River past Mount Sinai, 16-4, in the Class A semifinals May 20. The team will face Bayport-Blue Point May 24 in the championship round.
Morrell’s bat got the game started in the first inning with a two-run home run over the left field fence. Senior Thomas Brady singled next, and classmates Vincent Uzzi and Jon Luppens hit RBI singles for a 4-0 Shoreham-Wading River advantage.
The Mustangs were unable to answer, and the Wildcats’ bats went back to work in bottom of the second.
“It was a fast ball inside and I knew it right away [that it was gone].”
Senior Kyle Baylous hit a ground-rule double, Morrell followed with a single that put runners at the corners and senior Nick Manesis drew a walk to load the bases. With the table set, Stalzer jumped out on a fastball, and sent it flying over the left field fence with room to spare for a grand slam that doubled the Wildcat’s lead.
“We came out hot like we planned to do,” he said. “It was a fast ball inside and I knew it right away [that it was gone].”
The inning was far from over. Uzzi and senior Alex Bettenhauser hit singles, and Luppens drove Uzzi home for a second time. Senior T.J. Sicoli smacked the ball through the gap to load the bases, and Baylous was hit by a pitch to walk home the Wildcats’ 10th run.
Enter Morrell. The University of Notre Dame-bound pitching ace also jumped on a fastball, and blasted it the opposite way for the second grand slam of the inning and a commanding 14-0 lead.
“That just doesn’t happen … two grand slams in one inning is amazing,” Morrell said. “They pithed me outside all day … it was a fastball away and I just wanted to beat them.”
Morrell, who has pitched three no hitters this season and six in his varsity career, was critical of his performance on the mound despite earning the win and going 2-for-4 with two home runs and six RBIs.
“My command was pretty bad today — I made my pitches and got outs, but they hit me a little bit,” he said. “Going to the county finals means a lot especially after last year where we fell short. We have a great team and I feel that we can do a lot.”
“The potential is always there to put together two good innings early, but that was pretty intense.”
Senior Will Esposito lit up the scoreboard first for Mount Sinai, and Morrell walked the next batter to load the bases. Looking to spark a rally, junior Ryan Picarello nailed a two-run shot to right field, but the Mustangs couldn’t keep the inning going. In the bottom of the fifth, Mount Sinai tacked on its final run.
After a close game between the two teams in their last outing, Shoreham-Wading River head coach Kevin Willi said he was surprised by the margin of victory. He added he was impressed with the collective effort his squad showed and how everyone made a contribution. He said the Wildcats have scored 32 home runs in its 22-1 season.
“The potential is always there to put together two good innings early, but that was pretty intense,” he said. “It was good because we just came off our closest game of the season, the 3-2 win over Mount Sinai, where we had to come back down 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh. To come back — getting the bats going — that’s been the story all year.”
But the Wildcats didn’t need to worry about coming back this time around. Stalzer, who finished 2-for-5 with five RBIs, plated Morrell in the bottom of the sixth, and Uzzi drove home Stalzer to give the game its final score.
“We knew that Mount Sinai wasn’t going to lay down and let us have it,” Stalzer said. “So our mindset was to be really focused today. If we lost today it would’ve been our first loss [in the postseason], and we didn’t want to play them again.”