Brooklyn Boro

Poly Prep’s Morgan Gray pitches through back pain to beat Berkeley Carroll

May 7, 2014 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Poly Prep’s ace starter Morgan Gray hadn’t pitched in nearly a month with a back injury, but there was no way he was going to miss a game against Berkeley Carroll, Poly’s biggest rival.

“My back is tightening up right now,” Gray admitted after the game. “It’s definitely tight right now, but during the game, though, you have your adrenaline pumping so I felt alright. I battled and the outcome was exactly what I hoped for.

“Especially coming back after not having played for the last three or four weeks, I wanted to sort of prove a point and provide for the team as much as possible,” he said.

Gray did get exactly what he’d hoped for, getting a 4-3 win over Poly Prep at MCU Park in Coney Island on Monday behind a great performance. Gray allowed just three runs on five hits, six strikeouts and four walks in 6.2 innings.

“He’s shown heart like he never has,” said Poly Prep manager Matt Roventini of Gray, who has been out with a protruding disc in his back. “He’s been out and hasn’t been in a game at all. He threw 100-something pitches and refused to come out of that game. He said, ‘let me finish,’ and I tried, but it got a little too close in the end. I give him all the credit in the world. That was his game, he’s a senior and didn’t want to walk away from this.”

Gray got through the first five innings unscathed, but things got tense in the sixth. Berkeley Carroll scored a run that inning when Ian Miller stole home and, with two outs, they loaded the bases. Gray escaped that jam too when he got pinch hitter Christian Baumann to ground out

After retiring the first two batters in the seventh, Gray allowed back-to-back doubles. He was pulled for Webber Whiting Lawrence, who walked both batters he faced to load the bases. Poly then had to turn to freshman Nick Storz to get the save.

Storz retired the only batter he faced, Will Reagan, but not before Reagan nearly dunked a ball into right field that just went foul. It was close enough to provide everyone a big scare before Storz settled down to strike Reagan out.

“That was nerve wracking, but that’s baseball,” Gray said. “I thought the game was over right there, but after that, I knew that Nicky was going to punch him out after that.”

Gray was just one half of what was a great pitching matchup. Berkeley Carroll’s Miller was on the other end and he was nearly as good, he pitched seven innings and allowed four runs, three earned, on seven hits, two walks and six strikeouts.

Miller allowed the unearned run on his own throwing error in the second inning. He gave up two more when Storz and Matt Zapata hit back-to-back doubles followed up by an RBI-ground out by Isaiah Russell.

The big run turned out to be the run Miller allowed in the seventh. It was 3-1 after Berkeley Carroll had finally broken through with a run in the sixth and Miller hit Anthony Prato to lead off the seventh inning. Prato reached second on a wild pitch, moved to third on a ground out and scored when Rob Calabrese hit a sac fly to left to give Poly Prep a 4-1 lead. That run turned out to be the difference.

“The biggest thing to me was that we responded after they scored that one run,” Roventini said. “We manufactured a run. A guy gets hit by a pitch, gets over to second, moves again on a ground ball and scored on a sac fly. That run opened it up and to me that was the biggest point for us.”

Miller and Gray could potentially have lots of matchups like this over the next few years as well as Gray is headed to Brown University and Miller going to Harvard. They’re not looking forward to those games just yet though as both teams will likely face each other again in the New York State Association of Independent Schools final.

“This rivalry is real,” Gray said. “It’s sad that I’m not going to have it anymore after I leave so I’m trying to get as much out of it as I can.”

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