The Morgan baseball team had another fine season this spring in which it posted a record of 19-7, while making some noise in both postseason brackets. Despite graduating five seniors from last year’s club that reached the Class S state final for the second straight campaign, the Huskies still brought enough heat on the mound and pop at the plate to make another nice run in 2017. Morgan wound up reaching the semifinals of both the Shoreline Conference and Class S State tournaments in what turned out to be John Litevich’s final year as the Huskies’ head coach.
In Shorelines, Morgan defeated East Hampton 5-1 in the quarterfinals before taking a 6-0 loss to Cromwell in the semis. Then in states, the Huskies posted victories versus Stafford (10-0), Griswold (2-0), and Shepaug Valley (3-0), after which they dropped a 1-0 contest against Lyman Memorial in the semifinal round.
Even though his club didn’t go all the way, Litevich felt proud of the Huskies for putting together the latest in a recent line of quality campaigns in Clinton.
“I thought that we had a good team coming back. I just wasn’t sure how it was going to compare to years past,” said Litevich. “We had eight kids this year who played in two state championship games. For them to get to the semifinals, it was kind of a letdown, but that’s a joke, because it’s really hard to even get to that level. To get back to that game, they did everything they could. Very pleased with the season.”
The Huskies came out of the gate like gangbusters by winning their first 13 games this year, one of which came against Shoreline Conference rival Haddam-Killingworth on April 11. Morgan was down 7-3 heading into the bottom of the sixth, and it looked like they might take their first defeat. Instead, the Huskies rallied to score five unanswered runs and pull off an 8-7 victory.
“It was the bottom of the sixth, and I’m preparing my losing game speech, but we hit a switch, where we scored five runs in the sixth,” Litevich said. “Then I put [senior John Urban] out there for a 1-2-3 seventh. It’s always big to beat them.”
Litevich noted another win that he felt proved huge for his team when Morgan shut out a 15-win Guilford squad on the strength of some excellent pitching and defense.
“Guilford’s a Class L school, and they thought they could come in and beat up on us a little, but then we beat them 7-0. They had a good year when all was said and done,” Litevich said. “I think we woke them up a little bit. We played our best baseball. [Cooper Thompson] was outstanding. [Madden Ward] had some Major League defensive plays that game.”
Coach Litevich stressed pitching and defense this season, and his team delivered in both regards. Thompson, a senior captain, posted a record of 9-1 with a 0.74 earned-run average while giving up just 29 hits and striking out 66 in his 66 innings pitched. As a result, Thompson earned spots on the All-Shoreline Conference First Team, the Connecticut High School Coaches Association Class S All-State Team, and the New Haven Register All-Area Team. On top of that, Thompson was selected as the Shoreline Conference Pitcher of the Year.
“Cooper is a very confident kid, but I wouldn’t call him cocky,” said Litevich. “There is no challenge he wouldn’t take. He was always a team player, hard-working, and great kid to coach. Led by example and vocally. I love everything about him.”
Fellow senior captain Ward was a leader of the same ilk as Thompson, and he, too, earned All-Conference and All-State honors. Ward, a shortstop, posted a .385 average with 16 RBI, 32 runs scored, and 22 steals on the season.
“Cooper and Madden were the same type of players. They believe they’re winning. They go out there thinking they’re the best team and, most of the time, they were,” Litevich said. “They put the work in and busted their rear ends. They’re my kind of guys.”
Thompson was joined at the top of the rotation by senior John Urban, who followed up his excellent junior year with another great performance this spring. Urban finished 6-4 with a 1.10 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 70 innings, including a no-hitter against Coginchaug on April 24. Urban earned a spot on the All-Shoreline Conference Second Team.
“Our pitching was just outstanding this year,” said Litevich. “On top of the no-hitter against Coginchaug, John Urban took two perfect games into the seventh. It was a healthy competition between him and Cooper. They were matching game for game. And when they had a rough game, they would come back so focused and be better the next one.”
Litevich said that the Morgan baseball team has seen its greatest stretch of sustained success in the program history during the past four seasons. Litevich wants his players to look back with pride about what they accomplished throughout that run.
“Over the past four years, these kids have been the most successful in the history of the school,” he said. “In states, they went quarterfinals, finals, finals, then semis this year. Record wise, we were as good as we have ever been. We won the [Shoreline Conference regular season title] three of those four years, too.”
Litevich extends a lot of credit for the Huskies’ success to this year’s graduating seniors, who are Thompson, Ward, Urban, Harry White, Anthony Mongillo, Aiden Esposito, Drew Walton, and Tyler Borzillo. Each one of these athletes was there for all four years, and Litevich knows that their ability to play well as a cohesive unit was one of the biggest keys for his club.
“These kids like playing together and they all get along great. They hung out outside of the baseball field. It’s great chemistry for any sports team when you have kids who are willing to sacrifice for each other,” Litevich said. “Just great kids who are willing to work to accomplish their goals. They don’t just wake up that way. They’ve been working at it a long time.”
In terms of Morgan’s future, Litevich feels confident that there are more great things on the horizon. He leaves the program feeling happy that the Huskies have done so well in recent years and is eager to see how they are going to fare down the road.
“This is my baby. I did this for 11 years, and I care where it goes,” said Litevich. “They are going to be young. The future should look good. You only go as far as your pitching takes you, so we’ll see. Should be an exciting time for Morgan with a transition to a new era.”
• The Morgan baseball team’s varsity roster included senior captain pitcher/first baseman Cooper Thompson, senior captain shortstop/pitcher Madden Ward, as well as fellow seniors in center fielder Harry White, right fielder Drew Walton, second baseman Anthony Mongillo, pitcher John Urban, catcher Aiden Esposito, and utility player Tyler Borzillo; along with juniors in designated hitter/first baseman/pitcher Russ Green and third baseman Nick Caprio; sophomores in left fielder AJ Fritz, Mike Menacho, Calvin Jackson, and Jack O’Sullivan; along with freshman DH/right fielder Kyle Suraci. Head Coach John Litevich’s assistant coaches were Dan Litevich and Mike Spotts.
• Morgan notched wins in the regular season against Cromwell (2-0), North Branford (11-4 and 2-1), Portland (7-1), East Hampton (11-5), Haddam-Killingworth (8-7), Valley Regional (13-1), Guilford (7-0), Creed-Hillhouse (20-1), Hale-Ray (12-0), Old Saybrook (6-0), Coginchaug (2-1, and 5-0), Old Lyme (12-0), and Westbrook (8-6).