GREENE TWP. >> Jared Morris couldn’t have pitched a better game Monday in the PIAA Class 5A semifinal round.
The Springfield ace was a bulldog all season, and for the third time in the state tournament, he toed the slab with attitude and confidence. On the precipice of the state final, Morris was poised to give his best performance yet.
“That’s how it’s been all season, I didn’t want to leave anything on the table,” he said. “As a team we go all seven innings plus. I can’t be any more proud of my team.”
Morris didn’t allow a run in either of the first two rounds of the state tournament. At Greene Township Park in Monday’s semifinal against District 7 champion Greater Latrobe, he was excellent in a 2-1 loss that spoiled the Cougars’ bid to become the first Delaware County baseball team to win a state title. The Cougars fell a game shy of playing for a championship at Penn State Thursday night.
“He pitched three games in states and was great,” Springfield coach Brian Francis said of Morris. “Fortunately, we were able to get him in there today. The plan was for him to go three or four innings, but he went the whole way because it was going well. We also made some good defensive plays, too.”
That was the story of Morris’ outing, a six-inning gem that simply wasn’t good enough. He scattered four hits, including two that didn’t leave the infield, while registering four strikeouts. The All-Delco righthander faced three batters over the minimum and needed only 70 pitches.
With the exception of a 20-pitch second inning, when Greater Latrobe scored both of its runs, Morris was economical with his pitches. He retired the side in order on two occasions and allowed only one hit after the second.
“He really showed his heart today,” senior catcher Andrew Todaro said. “He got down early, but he stayed strong and stayed the way he was all season. He battled and did something really special. His changeup and curveball were really working today. He really located his pitches, he was on point. He pitched maybe the best I’ve seen him all season.”
Unfortunately for Morris and the Cougars, Greater Latrobe’s Ryan Shawley was slightly better on this day. The Wildcats (23-2) came in riding a 15-game winning streak with their No. 1 on the mound in Shawley, who dazzled over seven innings of three-hit ball with six strikeouts.
A finesse righthander, Shawley used a long leg kick with a deceptive three-quarters arm slot to keep the Cougars guessing. Shawley made it very difficult for Springfield to see the ball out of his hand.
“Definitely when I drop down and throw sidearm, for sure, it gives me an advantage,” Shawley said. “Teams from the section might be used to it, but a team from Philly, I’m sure they didn’t know much about me. I’m sure they knew I mixed my speeds, but it’s completely different facing someone from outside your league. I throw batting practice against my team and even my teammates are like, ‘I don’t know how they (other teams) hit it.’
“I kind of picked up the sidearm one day just sort of messing around in the yard with my dad. I tried to drop down some, and I guess it stuck.”
Shawley had the Cougars (19-8) flailing throughout the day. They squared up a few balls as the game progressed, but had nothing to show for it. In the third, Dave Bingaman led off with a double, a hot shot down the left-field line. Bingaman moved to third on a wild pitch and scored Springfield’s lone run on the back end of a double steal attempt. Greg Tamaccio was gunned down trying to take second.
“It was different timing every time,” Todaro said of Shawley’s wonky delivery. “He was over the top, then three-quarters and then he would come at you from way under. It throws you off a little bit. You have to be ready for that … but he pitched his butt off.”
Greater Latrobe scored on an RBI single by Isaac Echard, who then manufactured the second run with a pair of stolen bases. An errant throw to third enabled Echard to trot home.
An overturned call squashed Springfield’s attempt at a rally in the seventh inning after cleanup hitter Andrew Paulus hit a bouncer to third base. The ball was thrown wild and wide, forcing first baseman Echard to come off the bag to make the catch. Echard clearly tagged Paulus on his way to the base, but the first-base umpire ruled him safe. After a quick conference, the call was changed to an out, prompting Francis to argue the ruling.
“(The first-base umpire) didn’t tell me at first if it was a tag, if he did swipe him,” Francis said. “I said, ‘You call him safe. What did you call? You guys got together, what was the call? Did you have it on the bag or was it the tag?’ He didn’t say anything until I said, ‘Did he tag him?’ Then he said, ‘Yeah, he was out on the tag.’ So, I had to tell them the call. I don’t think they knew and I don’t think they were assertive enough.
“That’s one play in a game. It doesn’t help us there, because we might score a run. That gives us a baserunner right away. … But we struck out too much and popped up too much. We hit the ball hard enough on the ground to make those guys make plays.”
Morris singled with two outs, then Tom Quinn reached base on an error. But Brandon DiChiacchio flew out to center fielder Zack Kokoska, a Virginia Tech recruit, to end the game.
“I can’t ask for any more from these guys,” Francis said. “They battled all year.”