On Friday night, Reservoir baseball coach Adam Leader sent his ace pitcher, junior Cody Morris, a text message asking him if he was prepared to take the ball in the 3A state championship game.
Morris responded with confidence, "I got this," before spending a sleepless night tossing and turning, wondering if he would indeed come through with the hopes of a community resting on his broad shoulders.
On Saturday night, under the lights at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen, Morris pitched the finest game of his high school career, leading Reservoir to a 2-0 win over North Harford in the Gators' first trip to the state championship.
"Him and I were texting a lot last night and I said, 'Are you ready, buddy?' and he sai,d 'Coach I got this, relax. I got it,' " said Leader, whose team had lost in the regional championship game in the past two years. "He was real gutsy out there and kept them off balance… thank God I got him another year, too."
Morris threw 85 pitches (60 strikes), allowing only two hits and two walks in the complete-game shut out. He struck out 11, and retired 11 in a row between the third and sixth innings.
"I didn't have any sleep last night. I was really hyped up for the game. I like the pressure, I live for it, and I'm glad I could come through," said Morris, who has committed to pitch for the University of South Carolina. "We had a mission coming into the season and we knew we could do it this year. It just came down to executing, and we executed."
Two of North Harford's four baserunners got on with no outs in the top of the first inning, when Hawks junior Luke Johnson led off with a single through the left side of the infield and shortstop Richie Greene followed with a walk on full count. But Morris regrouped to strike out the heart of North Harford's order, and didn't look back.
Brandon Plummer's leadoff walk in the top of the third, and Nic Hammer's clean single with two outs in the sixth represented North Harford's only other baserunners.
"I had some nerves the first inning. State championship game, it's kind of expected. But I worked through it. I had a really good breaking ball today, good changeup, I had command of all my pitches and my defense backed me up," said Morris, the two-time Howard County Pitcher of the Year.
North Harford ace Brian Shaffer, who threw 108 pitches in a state semifinal win over LaPlata on Tuesday, was nearly as sharp as Morris.
"I did my best," Shaffer said. "Cody's a hell of a pitcher. He just outdid us."
Gators senior Paul Quattrone drew a leadoff walk in the second, advanced on a sacridice bunt by senior Dan Rosenberry and scored on a two-out RBI single by junior centerfielder Drew Stone.
Quattrone singled in each of his next two at-bats to finish the day perfect at the plate.
"I was just trying to go up there and have good at-bats. Line drives, ground balls and make them make a play on it and it was finding holes," said Quattrone, one of only four seniors in Reservoir's starting lineup. "(Morris) pitched amazing, and he always pitches amazing … It felt really good to score some runs for him and take a little bit of the pressure off."
The Gators got an insurance run in the fourth, when Rosenberry scored on a two-out, two-base throwing error off the bat of Stone. But Morris, who collected two base hits of his own, needed only one run to lead Reservoir to its first state championship.
"Stuff-wise this was the best I've ever seen him throw," said senior catcher Danny O'Hagan, who will play for Catholic University next year. "All three of his pitches were working. Fastball had great velocity and was located, curveball had great bite to it, changeup had a nice drop at the end. He was locating everything.
"It's great to end my high school career with a win. I'm going to look back the rest of my life saying I won the last high school baseball game I ever played in, and it feels awesome."
NH (22-3) 000 000 0 - 0 2 2
Re (22-2) 010 100 x - 2 5 0
Shaffer and Johnson. Morris and O'Hagan.