A small crowd of professional baseball scouts came to Hammond High School on March 25, huddling behind the backstop with their radar guns trained on Reservoir senior Cody Morris, hoping to catch some new valuable insight on the prized righty, who has already earned a scholarship to pitch for the University of South Carolina.
Morris did not disappoint his audience on Wednesday afternoon, mowing through the Hammond line-up in order, recording seven strikeouts on 35 pitches to earn the 1-0 win.
Most of the scouts dispersed after Morris moved over to first base after three innings of work, but had they stuck around, they also would have seen impressive pitching performances by Gators junior Eric Niederhauser, who struck out seven and allowed only two hits over the final four innings, and Hammond lefty David Hutchison, who pitched a complete game four-hitter (6 Ks) in a hard-luck losing effort.
"I felt good out there and Eric looked great, so that's really encouraging. I'm really happy for him," said Morris, who earned the win in last spring's 3A state championship game and throws in the mid-90s. Hutchison "settled in as the game went on. He was mixing well. I saw a lot of breaking balls ... it's hard, especially early in the year, to hit a breaking ball. Props to him, he threw a great game, he knows how to pitch."
The only run of the game came in the top of the first inning, when Gators freshman leadoff man Cameron Hyder was hit by a pitch, advanced to third on a double off the bat of senior Drew Stone, and scored on an RBI ground out by Morris.
"It could be a little nerve wracking but (Hyder) has jumped right in and the awesome thing is that the veterans have taken him in like a brother," Reservoir coach Adam Leader said. "We have three freshmen up and it's the same thing. It's a good group of guys and they are all here for the purpose of being together and doing well."
Reservoir advanced runners to third in the fifth and sixth innings, but Hutchison, a junior, buckled down and got out of both jams with strong pitches.
"We want to get our players as much exposure as we can, so when games like this happen we take advantage of it," Hammond coach Casey Medairy said. "I'm hoping that (the scouts) wrote some of our guys' names down. There are guys on our team who deserve to get that exposure."
The Golden Bears nearly pushed the tying run across the plate several times.
In the fourth, Hammond junior leadoff man DaVonn Griffin greeted Niederhauser with a bunt single, stole second base, and advanced to third on a sac bunt by Hutchison. Freshman Myles Johnson then drew a walk and stole second, but Gators shortstop Leo Estevez nullified the scoring threat by fielding a grounder off the bat of Calvin Smith, looking Griffin back to the bag, and making a strong throw to first, then snagging a Ryan Ridgell line drive just before it hit the dirt.
"We had guys in scoring position twice, we just didn't finish them," Medairy said. "We set ourselves up, we just didn't finish."
In the seventh inning, Calvin Smith hit a one-out double to the right center field gap, but Niederhauser — who transferred to Reservoir from Florida — closed out the win with back-to-back strikeouts.
"Eric is a guy that we're bringing along as a pitcher and we wanted to throw him out there and just see what he had," Leader said. "We had other guys ready to go but the kid showed passion on the mound."
Reservoir, which ended last season on an 11-game winning streak, lost to Howard, 6-3, on Opening Day earlier this week.
"A couple things went wrong, and we made a couple of mistakes, but it's the first game of the year and obviously we've been building off it," Morris said. "We've got some good momentum."
Hammond, which started last season 0-5 and was shut out in its first three games of 2014, was also feeling encouraged, even after Wednesday's loss.
"We're much stronger than last year. We started 0-5 last year, we got no-hit, we got perfect gamed. To come out like we are right now, I'm not upset. I'm really happy with how this game went. It was one run, but it's early in the season and if we're playing this strong I've got really high hopes for this team," Medairy said. "I'm really excited. We've got some good baseball ahead of us."
Each team was missing it's clean-up hitter on Wednesday, as Reservoir's Jack Barry and Hammond's Andy Weaver were both sidelined with illnesses.
Re (2-1) 100 000 0 - 1 4 0
Ha (1-1) 000 000 0 - 0 2 1
Morris, Niederhauser (4) and Harris. Hutchison and Terrasa.
2B: Re — Stone. Ha — Smith.
Around the league
Atholton 5, Long Reach 0
Raiders senior Jordan Patterson (Hood College) tossed a complete game two-hitter, striking out 11, to give defending county champion Atholton its first win of 2015.
Designated hitter William Holtzman led the Raiders at the plate, going 2-for-2 with a walk and three RBIs.
Chris Wessels singled and reached third in the fourth inning for the Lightning.
LR 000 000 0 - 0 2 1
A 013 010 x - 5 5 2
Patterson and Feuerman.
2B: A — Lee.
Howard 10, Centennial 5
Junior Austin Aguilera earned the win for the Lions with four strong innings before turning the ball over to Josh Olivier and Casey Crawford, who pitch a scoreless seventh.
Eric Greenbaum led the offense in the win with three hits and a pair of RBIs.
Marriotts Ridge 6, River Hill 2
The Mustangs won their first game of the 2015 campaign, dropping River Hill to 0-3.
Mt. Hebron 7, Glenelg 6 (8 innings)
The Vikings took an early 3-0 lead, but Glenelg pushed five unanswered runs across the plate to take a two-run lead into the final inning. Mt. Hebron tied it in the bottom of the seventh before Glenelg went back ahead after a leadoff walk in the top of the eighth.
In the bottom of the eighth, Joey Trapuzzano drew a one-out walk, then scored the tying run on a Jack Schroeder (3 H) double. Matt Ansaldi (3 H) then ended the game by blasting a walk-off line-drive deep into the left center field gap.
Schroeder also started the game and struck out eight in six innings.
Wilde Lake 14, Oakland Mills 11
Wildecats senior center fielder Cuinn Mullins stayed red hot, blasting his third home run — which was also his second grand slam — in three games, and finished 4-for-4 with five RBIs and three runs.
The Wildecats hammered 21 hits in the win, as Jared Mouton (3-5, 2B, 4 RBI), Wyatt Oler (5-5, 2B, 5 R) and Sergio Irizarry-Cruz (3-5, 2B) also had big performances.
MIAA B Conference
Glenelg Country at Boys Latin
Thursday, March 26 schedule
St. Frances at Chapelgate (MIAA C)
Friday, March 27 schedule
Glenelg at Long Reach
Marriotts Ridge at Atholton
Oakland Mills at Howard
Reservoir at Centennial
Friends at Glenelg Country (MIAA B)
League standings (as of March 25)
Mt. Hebron, 2-0
Long Reach, 2-1
Wilde Lake, 2-1
Marriotts Ridge, 1-2
Oakland Mills, 0-3
River Hill, 0-3
Glenelg Country, 0-1 (MIAA B)