Former SWR star ends summer as batting champion
Call him what you want, a pitcher who can hit or a hitter who can pitch, but Brian Morrell may be an endangered breed. He can do both very well.
Morrell is well remembered for his brilliance on the mound when he pitched for Shoreham-Wading River High School, but one shouldn’t forget that he could also swing the bat very well. As if a booster was needed, Morrell won the baseball league hitting title from the Hamptons Collegiate this summer while playing for the Riverhead Tomcats.
“It really helps to know that I’ve been successful, like showing that I can hit in this summer league,” said Morrell, who is heading into his final year in the red shirt at St. John’s University and hope to be signed or drafted by a major league club.
Morrell was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 35th round of the 2017 MLB Draft, but instead chose to play for Notre Dame. Strictly used as a pitcher, he went 0-0 with a 7.11 ERA in eight appearances for the Fighting Irish in two seasons. His bat was put aside during this time.
In 2019, Morrell joined the Tomcats with the idea of doing a few swings. The right-hander transferred to St. John’s this fall and started a game before problems manifested in the form of a UCL tear to his elbow. He underwent Tommy John surgery in March 2020, just before the coronavirus pandemic hit.
Since then, Morrell has moved to the outfield. The operation does not appear to have injured his staff. The star posted a league-best 0.393 batting average and produced 14 points for the Tomcats during the regular season. He went 4-for-18 (0.222) in the playoffs as the Tomcats were swept in two games by the Southampton Breakers in the Championship Series.
“He’s obviously had a big summer,” said Tomcats coach Bill Ianniciello, who called Morrell a “great boy”.
When asked what his typing secret was, Morrell replied, “For me, it’s just being aggressive. I mean, I think when you guess yourself, that’s when you fall in the holes and lose it a bit. When I stick with my approach, and am aggressive and trust myself, it will ultimately make me successful. “
Morrell enjoyed a famous high school career at SWR thanks to his throwing arm and prolific bat. Two years in a row he received the Carl Yastrzemski Award, which recognizes Suffolk County’s Outstanding Player. The Riverhead News-Review named him their SWR Athlete of the Year for 2016-17 and he was Newsday’s Long Island Player of the Year in 2017.
In five college seasons, Morrell pitched six games without a hitting (recognized as a Long Island record), with 23 wins, a 1.15 ERA and 295 strikeouts in 213 innings. Offensively, he reached 0.409 with 26 homers and 124 RBIs.
While pitching is currently on the back burner for Morrell (he pitched 2 1/3 innings on July 4), he hasn’t given up on pitching and is still in rehab for it.
Morrell believes his experience as a pitcher helps him as a hitter.
“I kind of take my approach like I’m the pitcher, like what the guy is going to try to throw at me,” he said. “… I kind of understand what their plan is in my fight. Like I was trying to see what they were throwing. Like, when they warm up, I always check what the guy has, what he’s throwing, what works for him that day, and I stick to see what his approach is, and then I attack with my approach.
Morrell plans one more college ball season and then hopes that a professional opportunity will present itself.
“That’s the only reason I play, yeah, and see where it goes and then you never know,” he said. “You never know. God has a plan.