Morris, the two-time Howard County pitcher of the year and reigning All-Met, struck out 15 batters in a complete game victory over Marriotts Ridge on Monday. He is 4-1 with a 0.93 ERA for the Gators this season and has only allowed 13 hits in five starts. This summer, he will return to pitch for the Evoshield Canes, a competitive travel team stacked with big-time college recruits.
Like other budding aces, Morris is often expected to pitch the most innings against the toughest competition, working year-round to hone his craft. Some believe that these increased workloads for young pitchers have contributed to the alarming rise in Tommy John surgeries at the professional level.
“I can control it to some extent, but [injuries] are not something I’m really, really concerned about,” said Morris, who has orally committed to South Carolina but could be selected in the first five rounds of the major league draft next summer. “I’m just making sure I do the little things that might seem kind of annoying to do — running, icing my arm and stuff. It all makes a difference.”
Morris has worked with an individual pitching coach, Joe Gast, since he first started pitching around age 9. Gast, who was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in 1985 and spent four years in the minors, helped iron out Morris’s mechanics and build beneficial long-term habits at an early age.
Today, Morris’s concerns are more about workload than mechanics. The junior tries to maintain strict 50-inning limits for both the high school and travel ball seasons, and his father tracks his pitch counts over the course of the year.
Between starts, Morris rests for five to seven days and follows a training schedule that includes running, stretching, soft toss and a bullpen session, depending on the rest period. He avoids pitching twice in the same week, unlike one fellow Maryland high school pitcher who Morris said threw 140 pitches in one game and five innings a few days later.
“It’s just crazy doing that,” Morris said. “That’s just TJ waiting to happen.”
Morris has shown maturity both in how he preserves his arm and how he uses it during games. After spending most of the past two years using a combination of 92-mph fastballs and circle change-ups, Morris is working hard to improve his curveball and add another dimension to his game.
“I think that one of the big things he has going for him is projectability,” Leader said. “He’s, in my mind, a great pitcher who hasn’t reached his full potential yet. He’s a big kid with a live arm, and when he gets that excellent year-round Division I coaching, he’s really, really going to blossom.”
Morris said he has put on 25 pounds to help fill out his lanky frame. Interest from major league teams will only continue to grow as he adds more muscle and enters his senior year.
In the meantime, Morris is looking at his future like he’s nurtured his career to this point: with maturity beyond his years.
“Right now, I’m just trying to focus on pitching at USC,” Morris said. “I’ll let the draft take care of itself, and worry about that when we get there.”
Before Madison junior John DeFazio took the mound Saturday at Washington-Lee, the right-hander said he felt his command was at his best after his bullpen warmup. He was following a tough act after the second-ranked Warhawks yielded one hit in each of their wins over Jefferson and Hayfield to start the week.
DeFazio had his best stuff in the weekend matchup as he jumped ahead of nearly all the batters he faced and didn’t run into trouble until the sixth inning.
With a full count in a 13-pitch at-bat, the Virginia Tech commit fooled the batter with an off-speed pitch and was unscathed from there, retiring all 21 of the batters he faced.
“With the perfect game on the line as a pitcher, you rarely see that,” Madison Coach Mark “Pudge”Gjormand said of the slider in the sixth.
It had been 17 years since a perfect game in the Northern Region. Gjormand was in his second year at the helm when Mike Moloney struck out 14 en route to the last feat of perfection in 1997 in a 23-0 win over McLean.
With a fastball that has been clocked in the upper 80s and a vicious slider that he mixes in well, DeFazio threw 87 pitches and recorded 10 strikeouts in the 2-0 win.
“I started thinking in the third that something special was going on,” DeFazio said. “It was the first perfect game in my career. Guys on the bench charged the mound and everyone was really excited.”
Madison has been nearly unhittable on the mound, posting a 1.08 ERA this season thanks to a three-headed pitching monster of DeFazio (3-0, 1.18 ERA), Princeton commit Nick Brady (4-1, 0.83 ERA) and sophomore Matt Favero (3-0, 1.57 ERA).
“I think we’ve done a good job of challenging hitters and throwing fastballs,” DeFazio said. “We have over 100 strikeouts compared to 28 walks. We’re constantly challenging hitters to get a lot of early outs.”
Poolesville slips from the No. 1 spot after losing a previously unreported game to Good Counsel, 4-2, on April 17. . . . Stone Bridge makes its first appearance atop the rankings after senior ace JB Bukauskas struck out 16 batters in an 8-0 win over Broad Run on Monday. . . . Madison allowed just two hits in three wins last week including a perfect game by junior John DeFazio in Saturday’s 2-0 victory at Washington-Lee. . . . St. John’s suffered its third defeat in WCAC play with a 5-0 loss to DeMatha on Monday, but the Cadets are still in first place in the conference. . . . Flint Hill makes its debut in the rankings on a 13-game winning streak.
1. Stone Bridge (12-1) LW: 3
2. Madison (12-2) LW: 5
3. Poolesville (15-1) LW: 1
4. St. John’s (17-6) LW: 2
6. Battlefield (9-1) LW: 7
7. La Plata (13-3) LW: 4
8. Atholton (14-1) LW: 8
9. Gaithersburg (14-1) LW: 10
10. Flint Hill (14-5) LW: NR
Dropped out: DeMatha (13-8) LW: 9
Records through Tuesday