Age seems but an inconsequential number for Monarch’s Andrew Morris.
Forget that he is just 16 years old — there are a lot of them out there on varsity baseball teams.
This is what tends to raise the eyebrows: Morris is just a few weeks away from graduating, and will step foot on the campus of Colorado Mesa University still shy of his 17th birthday.
Now, that’s wild.
On the mound, Morris is making different waves as the Coyotes are preparing for what hopes to be a lengthy Class 5A postseason run. He’s a bona fide ace — “he’s really had two bad innings all year,” Monarch head coach Scott Weiss said recently — and he’s showing already there may be a bright future for him in the game.
Much to Weiss’s chagrin, Morris should be a sophomore this season if traditional lines were followed. But having lived in several states during his young life, the road has veered a few different ways. Born on September 1, 2001, Morris would already have been one of the youngest in his class but when he moved to Alaska he was able to go through a combination 2nd/3rd grade class that further advanced his education level.
He moved to Colorado in seventh grade, and his age has been a hot topic ever since.
“It happens all the time, but definitely not as much now as the season goes on,” Morris said this week. “For me, it’s just how it’s been. I’ve been competing against much older kids since I was 12. It’s never stopped me and it’s definitely made me a better baseball player. It’s pushed me.”
When it comes to his maturity in the baseball sense, there’s no joking around. So why is he just emerging as the ace this year? That’s because in 2017, Morris was dealing with some elbow issues that forced everyone to take pause about his future.
Weiss said that Morris, a competitive kid who thought he could deal with the pain, initially did not let him know prior to the spring season that he was hurt and it took an email from Morris’s mother to push the conversation into overdrive.
There was no discussion of having Morris play and not pitch — Weiss thought the best decision would be to shut him down completely for the varsity season. Morris did come back and play summer ball, but sitting out the spring was a learning experience that has paved the way for this year’s success.
“That time helped me mature as a player because I was able to watch from an outside perspective and pick up on some other aspects of the game,” said Morris, who earned an opportunity to play for the Mesa Mavericks but will redshirt next year. “I actually did pitching charts all last season, so it allowed me to study all our pitchers, sequencing and stuff like that.
“My pitching coach (Bill Peterson) has changed my life, my mechanics, and I’ve been able to pitch without pain ever since last summer. It’s been amazing.”
Weiss was anxious to get Morris back on the mound in 2018, and from the get-go the senior has been nothing short of spectacular. Using a repertoire of a upper-80’s fastball, a curveball, a slider and a changeup, Morris has gilded an 8-2 record with a classification-leading 88 strikeouts in 56 innings.
His past three outings stand out big — against Broomfield, Legacy and Fairview he threw a combined 17 2/3 innings, allowed two runs and struck out 30. Because of the recent rain, Monarch will finish the regular season Saturday morning against Fossil Ridge and Morris have a chance to add to the impressive stretch.
“He throws the baseball like a 20-year-old, and he just has this competitiveness out there that you don’t see in everyone,” Weiss said, noting the looks of dismay he gets when he tells opposing coaches his true age. “He’s gone out and let his ability and his performance speak for itself and it’s been a treat to watch.
“He couldn’t wait for the season to start, and all he would tell me in winter workouts was, ‘I’m going to tear it up, coach.’ He’s definitely shown me.”
After seeing the team finish a disappointing 7-12 last year, the expectations have been raised quite a bit for the Coyotes as they are right in the thick of the Front Range League title race.
The youthful energy of Morris emerges when discussing just how much fun the season has been and the potential for a state tournament berth.
“It’s been fantastic and I feel real lucky to be a part of this team because they’re my second family,” Morris said. “It feels great to be doing what I am for them. I always want to be out there in the big games and want to be the ones facing the big hitters. I think I can rise to the occasion a little bit.”
Sound like a 16-year-old to you?