ABERDEEN, Md. — The night before the Maryland 3A championship baseball game, Reservoir Coach Adam Leader texted every player on his team. He told them he loved them and thanked them for getting the program to this point. Then he typed out a special text for junior Cody Morris.
“You ready, buddy?” the text read.
“Coach,” Morris responded. “I got this.”
The All-Met and South Carolina commit is one of the most dominant pitchers in the state, a mild-mannered flamethrower whose fastball touches 92 mph. All eyes were on him Saturday night at Ripken Stadium when the first North Harford batter stepped into the box. And Morris didn’t disappoint.
The right-hander threw a two-hit shutout to lead Reservoir to its first state championship with a 2-0 win. He struck out 11 batters and at one point retired 11 in a row, showing no signs of the enormous burden resting on his shoulders.
“I like the pressure. I live for it,” Morris said. “And I’m glad I could come through.”
Morris finished the season with an 8-1 record and 89 strikeouts. He is the star on a team filled with veterans, many of whom have played together since elementary school. Leader first met Morris at a baseball camp when the pitcher was about 10 years old. Third baseman Jack Barry and catcher Danny O’Hagan were also at the camp, all wearing matching hats, jackets and socks from their travel team, the Savage Eagles.
On Saturday night, they won the state championship together for Reservoir (22-2).
“I’ve grown up with all of them,” said O’Hagan, who will play at Catholic next year. “Playing with them for so long, you get to know them real well. I couldn’t have asked for better teammates to share this with.”
O’Hagan orchestrated the defense Saturday night, as he always does, and called Morris’s gem with guidance from the coaching staff. Morris, who is expected to be taken in the first three rounds of the MLB draft in 2015, relied on his blistering fastball and cited a scouting report by assistant coach Stephen Pipe as a reason for his success.
O’Hagan called Morris’s performance “the best game I’ve seen him pitch this season.” Leader struggled to find words to describe it.
“Listen, when the ball’s in his hand, you’re a lot more comfortable,” Leader said. “He’s such a wonderful kid — great player, but even a better kid. He was real gutsy out there.”
Senior Paul Quattrone reached base in each of his three at-bats to spark Reservoir’s offense against North Harford starter Brian Shaffer, a Maryland commit. Drew Stone drove in the team’s first run with a single in the second inning, and Dan Rosenberry scored the second run on an error in the fourth.
With Morris on the mound, it was all the Gators needed. After fielding quality teams but failing to make it past the region championship game in each of the past five years, they finally broke through by beating the Hawks (22-3).
“I’ve been dreaming about it. Sorry if I get choked up,” Leader said. “I’m just really, really proud of these guys. We’ve worked so hard this year, offseason, working out. It’s just a special team.”