Photo by Jeff Yoder
Your Prep Sports
DES MOINES – It hasn’t taken long for Marcus Morgan to earn a reputation as a gamer.
In his first two seasons of varsity action the West High sophomore has developed a knack for producing some of his top performances in the tightest of situations.
Morgan built on that reputation with a pair of stellar postseason starts to help second-ranked West High return to the state tournament after a one-year hiatus.
In his first state tournament start Marcus cemented his status as a big-game pitcher with a strong start in a 6-3 quarterfinal win over Pleasant Valley on Wednesday.
“He is a warrior out there,” long-time West High coach Charlie Stumpff said of Morgan. “He’s just what you want in those big spots.”
Morgan allowed three runs, one earned, on five hits and struck out 11 in 5 2/3 innings in the quarterfinal win over Pleasant Valley to improve to 10-0 on the season.
It was the third consecutive postseason win for Morgan who struck out at least one batter in all six innings against the Spartans.
“I was just feeling good today,” Morgan said. “I was comfortable with all my pitches.”
The strong state tournament debut moved Morgan to 3-0 in postseason starts this season.
He had a .72 ERA in the postseason allowing just eight hits while striking out at least 11 in all three starts.
The sophomore right-hander fanned 39 batters in 19 1/3 postseason innings.
“We’ve been playing really well lately and we were out here having a good time,” Morgan said. “We were having fun but still staying focused, we are always having fun when we play baseball together.”
Morgan continually came up big for West High during its postseason run but the sophomore seemed to save his best for the biggest moments.
Perhaps the biggest moment of the postseason came in the third inning of a then tie game against Pleasant Valley.
The Spartans loaded the bases with no outs on a pair of singles and a walk and had the middle of their order due up with a chance to break open a 1-1 tie.
Instead Morgan struck out three consecutive batters starting with junior centerfielder Jose Lara who doubled to left center in his first at bat.
“Marcus was really big,” Stumpff said. “Striking out the side when they had bases loaded no outs that was a key part of the game.”
Morgan then got cleanup hitter Peyton Lindmark swinging for the second out and caught Max Slavens looking for the third out after falling behind 3-0.
“They loaded the bases and I was trying to focus on getting outs,” Morgan said. “I got a strikeout and then got another one and once we got to two outs we had a chance. I just had to get that third one.”
Morgan allowed a pair of unearned runs in the fifth inning that cut the West High lead to 4-3 but struck out the only two batters he faced in the sixth before hitting the pitch count limit and giving way to senior reliever Ryan Cooper.
“The centerfielder hit a ball hard to the gap in the first inning and other than that there wasn’t a lot of balls struck hard,” Stumpff said. “The command wasn’t as good for Marcus but he’s a battler and a warrior.”
Morgan finished his sophomore season 10-0 with a .71 ERA and 105 strikeouts with just 22 walks.