For three seasons, Ryan Leone and Garrett Williams have been integral parts of the Calvary Cavaliers pitching staff, sharing the mantle of co-aces.
As their senior seasons arrived, it was assumed that arrangement would continue, and it has, just with a slight change in characters.
When top-seeded Calvary hosts Rosepine today at 5 p.m. in a Class 2A state quarterfinal, it will turn to senior right-hander Stephen Morrison, who has taken Leone’s place alongside Williams as a second No. 1-type pitcher.
Morrison’s ascension from a little-used junior to the team leader in wins (9) and ERA (0.89) has been a boon, as Leone has not been able to pitch this season.
“It’s hard to categorize Garrett and Stephen as No. 1 and No. 2,” Calvary coach Todd Walker said. “If we had to win one game, we feel equally confident in both of them. Stephen’s meant everything, because, in high school baseball, you have to have two guys, at least. Stephen is pumping strikes in there and throwing off-speed pitches for strikes. He’s done everything we’ve asked.”
Morrison’s progression began before the season started. Walker told his pitchers not to wait to build arm strength. When the season opener arrived, Walker wanted the Cavaliers pitchers ready to throw seven innings.
Morrison did that, tossing a shutout against Mamou on opening day.
“Coach Todd informed me in the beginning of the year,” Morrison said. “He told me he needed me for some innings. I just got on the bump and started throwing, trying to get my arm stronger.”
While Leone and Williams battled each other strikeout for strikeout, Morrison is a different type of pitcher.
Ten of his 55 strikeouts this season came in a March 9 start against Pineville. Instead of pure velocity, Morrison has been a control and command type of pitcher, consistently hitting his spots with a three-pitch mix.
“Since I’ve been 12, that’s one thing I’ve worked on is command,” said Morrison, who said his pitching role model is former Byrd and current LSU pitcher Chris Cotton.
Morrison also has shown the ability to command his emotions, something that will be critical this afternoon. In his senior season, Morrison has drawn starts on both opening day and in the first round of the playoffs, a 20-0 Calvary victory against Lakeview.
“There were nerves,” Morrison said. “But once we got back in the dugout and got 10 runs, the nerves definitely cooled off.”