After making the varsity team as a freshman and flashing plenty of potential, Pilgrim’s Ryan Morris came into his sophomore year hoping for bigger things. His first start, though, was a tough one. Morris lasted just three innings in a 10-0 loss to Bishop Hendricken in the season’s first week.
Thursday’s game against Warwick Vets was like a restart.
Morris struck out eight and had a no-hitter going until T.J. Boyajian tripled in the fifth inning. But Morris didn’t allow anything else in five innings of work, and Colin Douglas closed out the game with two scoreless frames as Pilgrim topped Vets 5-0.
The Pats moved to 2-2 with the victory while Vets dropped to 1-3. The win was a good rebound for Pilgrim, which had dropped two in a row and had managed just seven hits in three league games.
It was a good rebound for Morris as well.
“Morris has got the stuff,” said Pilgrim head coach Ed Colvin. “It’s a matter of throwing strikes. We blew up his delivery. We made some changes. He was doing too much in his windup. He had a good bullpen session Monday and he was much improved today.”
Morris threw 95 pitches in five innings, walked five and went to a three-ball count nine times. But through all that, he kept finding a way and was otherwise nearly unhittable.
After a one-two-three first, Morris loaded the bases on two walks and a hit-by-pitch in the second. But he ended up striking out the side.
Two more runners walked with two outs in the third, but Morris induced a fly ball to end the inning. He struck out two in the fourth and saw catcher Shawn Clayton throw out a would-be base stealer.
In the fifth, Boyajian smacked a triple to deep left-center field with one out. Morris buckled down, though, striking out Kyle Waters on three pitches before getting Kevin Hickey to pop out.
“The stuff is there, the velocity’s there, he’s got three good pitches,” Colvin said. “He just has to throw strikes. At times, he got a little wild, but then he caught himself. If he can throw strikes, he’s going to be really tough.”
Hickey got the start for Vets and was matching Morris for a while. He allowed no runs and just one hit in three innings.
But in the fourth, things started to go south for the ’Canes.
Nick McGuirl reached on an error to start the inning and Branden Hoxsie drew a walk. After a groundout moved the runners up a base, Douglas hit a line drive up the middle. McGuirl scored easily and Hoxsie trotted home when the ball was misplayed in center field.
“Kevin did well and he battled out there,” said Vets head coach Nolan Landy. “He threw the ball well. But we came out flat and we never got it going. We kicked it around a little bit. If you give any team in this division extra outs, they’re going to score on you.”
Pilgrim added to its lead in the fifth. Mike Mallozzi roped a single to start the inning, which chased Hickey. Shawn Clayton welcomed reliever Danny Greaves by smashing a triple to deep right field. When Vets tried to throw Clayton out at third, the ball got away, and Clayton could trot home for the 4-0 lead. Hoxsie tripled later in the inning and raced home on a wild pitch.
For the Pats, an inning like that was a welcome sight.
“I knew we weren’t going to crush the ball this year, but we’re better than we had been,” Colvin said. “We had seven hits in three games coming into this. The kid Hickey is tough. He lives on the corners and he’s got a great changeup. A couple of guys were patient, and we finally got some guys to get some key hits.”
Pilgrim didn’t find any more offense against Greaves but didn’t need it. Douglas relieved Morris in the sixth and worked a one-two-three inning. He allowed two hits around a pair of strikeouts in the seventh but got out of the jam with a flyout.
“Douglas came in and did a good job,” Colvin said. “The name of the game is throwing strikes.”
And Pilgrim did enough of it to get back on track.
“It’s a good win,” Colvin said. “You want to stay around .500. I would think you’ve got to go at least 8-10 to make the playoffs, and everyone’s pretty close so it’s going to be bunched up. Our crossovers are tough this year, so we needed this one.”
Pilgrim was scheduled to be back in action on Monday against Toll Gate, with results unavailable at press time.
The ’Canes, who haven’t won since their season opener, played Hendricken on Monday and will visit Toll Gate on Wednesday at 1 p.m., as they try to get back on track.
“To this point, we’ve played very well,” Landy said. “Today, like I just told these guys, we took a step back. We had been playing good defense, doing the fundamentals right. Today it all comes back to being flat and not being ready to go at the start.”