Morris tosses second shutout, helps coach keep promise to win Connie Mack tourney

Las Vegas Mayhem coach Gino DiMaria is a big, burly guy who isn’t afraid to implement an old-school style of coaching from the dugout.

So it may have come as a shock for some, to see him get emotional after his team defeated the Las Vegas Crusaders, 1-0, to win the Connie Mack state tournament Saturday at CSN’s Morse Stadium.

“My father built summer baseball at Vegas (High), and a couple months before he died (in March 2010), I promised him we would win the state tournament for him,” DiMaria said. “That summer we lost in the championship game to Sierra Vista — in extra innings — and every year since then it’s the first thing I think of when the season begins.”

Four years later, and thanks to a two-hit shutout by ace pitcher Wes Morris, the Mayhem (22-3) made good on DiMaria’s promise.

“This title means a lot to many of these kids, and it’s a testament to how hard they worked,” said DiMaria, who visited his father’s grave following the win. “But for me personally, it’s a testament to what Izzy DiMaria meant to summer baseball at Las Vegas and in this town.”

Morris, who used an overpowering fastball to shut out the Las Vegas Grizzlies in a 5-0, tournament-opening win Tuesday, dominated the Crusaders (18-9) with his diverse arsenal. The crafty right-hander threw 63 of his 102 pitches for strikes.

“Our hitting wasn’t doing it for us, so I knew I had to step up and get something done,” said Morris, who struck out seven. “After I gave up that first hit (to lead off the game), I put that out of the way and settled in a little bit. When I came out in the second inning I just knew I had to do my thing and deal.”

Morris faced just 24 batters — three more than the minimum — in the game.

“He’s been consistent. I mean there hasn’t been a game that he has not been on,” DiMaria said. “He’s our go-to guy, he carried the game; if it wasn’t for him we lose this game.”

The Crusaders got a valiant effort from starter Dom Grant, but the 16-year-old southpaw simply couldn’t get any offensive support. The Crusaders’ best scoring chance was in the top of the fourth, when catcher Greg Sylvester reached third base, but was thrown out at home when he attempted to score on a passed ball. Grant allowed just three hits in 4 1/3 innings, and impressively worked out of jams in the first three innings.

The Mayhem scored in the bottom of the fifth inning. Grant walked Jose Sanchez, Cruz Nevarez doubled off the left-field wall and Alec Taft walked to load the bases. Blake Giuliani came on in relief for Grant, and after getting Juan Deolarte to pop out to shortstop, he walked Eddie Ojeda on four pitches, allowing Sanchez to score.

The Mayhem advance to the Connie Mack regional tournament, which begins Tuesday at Concordia University in Irvine, Calif.

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