Morelli adds a little punch to CCC's bats

Two-run single in the fourth gave the Marauders an insurmountable 4-2 lead.

By Brandon Wright, Times Staff Writer
Published May 16, 2007

SARASOTA - Down in the count 0-2 and with runners on second and third, Clearwater Central Catholic's Matt Morelli took a deep breath. He had fouled off a pair of hittable fastballs and knew he was in for a battle.

"With the runners where they were, I was just trying to drive the ball to the right side, " he said. "Just put it in play."

Morelli did just that - and then some.

The junior second baseman spit at three straight curveballs out of the zone before lining a full-count fastball back through the box and into centerfield. The two-run single in the fourth gave CCC a 4-2 lead and was the catalyst for seven unanswered runs.

"It was right in my kitchen, " Morelli said.

The scoreboard at Ed Smith Stadium showed a CCC rout when rightfielder Jeff Ijjas hauled in the final out, but Morelli's hit was crucial. Trinity Prep had just tied it the inning before, stealing CCC's momentum and giving the Saints' faithful hope.

"The kid is just big time and has had some clutch hits all year, " CCC coach Todd Vaughan said. "Morelli hits in the two hole and we like to bunt with him but he can sting you pretty good, too."

Morelli did bunt in the first inning, sacrificing Sam Mende to second and setting up Ryan Acosta's RBI single. But Morelli's "sting, " as Vaughan put it, proved pivotal throughout the final four. He finished 2-for-4 with three RBIs against the Saints and added three hits in the semifinals against Jacksonville Bolles.

"I saw the ball good both games, " Morelli said. "I knew when we took the lead we were in good shape because Acosta would shut them down from there."

Contact Brandon Wright at (727) 892-2216 or bwright@sptimes.com.