Morris coach Richard Corbo places an importance on participating in the Monroe Tournament. The Bulldogs have gotten off to a rough 1-3 start to start the PSAL campaign, but it looks as if their fortunes have changed in the last few days.
Morris took care of business early Monday morning by earning a 14-0 victory in five innings over Bronx School/Law, Government and Justice on Day 2 of the prestigious tournament. Morris plated eight runs in the first two innings, which was plenty for senior right-handed pitcher Luis Sterling, who went the distance for the win, while going 3-for-4 with two doubles and 3 RBIs. Ruben Pinero also recorded two doubles and an RBI.
This has been an impressive few days for Morris, which was supposed to advance to the elimination round of the tournament with a 3-0 record in pool play. However, it was ruled Morris used three ineligible players, a technicality according to Corbo, and the Bulldogs were forced to vacate the three wins.
Smailyn Lopez threw a one-hitter as Morris defeated Bryant 6-3, and Pinero threw six innings as the Bulldogs won 11-5 over Norman Thomas on Saturday. Despite missing a few starters to injury, the Bulldogs have raised their confidence level, according to Corbo.
“Every year since we go to the Monroe Tournament, we go through a metamorphosis and become players,” Corbo said. “They become team players and start playing for one another.”
Corbo has plenty of experience with the game as a former pro ballplayer in the Texas Rangers organization and later as an assistant at Monroe in its championship years in 1993, 1999 and 2002. After serving as coach at Environmental Studies, he took over Morris in 2007 and, a year later, the Bulldogs won the PSAL Class B championship at Shea Stadium.
Morris has been a solid team on the field since being promoted to the Class A in 2008. The Bulldogs play in a tough division against Monroe, Clinton, Mott Haven and crossover games against JFK and Lehman aren’t easy either.
Still the Bulldogs have made the playoffs every year, and Corbo’s philosophy is to get the best out of his players on the field. He has to work harder this year, incorporating four new underclassmen starters on the field. Senior second baseman Bryan Moran, Jason Ogando, Pinero, and Sterling are the only seniors with experience.
“We’ve been a headache, I haven’t said we’ve been great, but we’ve been a headache ever since we go to the ‘A’ Division,” Corbo said. “It’s about building players. If I can develop whatever talent they bring, and they learn how to play the game, then some point we’ll be winning. It’s a domino effect.”
Sterling, a four-year varsity player, says winning at the Monroe Tournament has erased some of the mistakes at the beginning of the season, which has cost them a few wins. A 15-8 defeat to Mott Haven on April 4, in which the Bulldogs lost an 8-1 lead, was a sign something was wrong.
“I feel like we have become a family. Before everyone was just to themselves, losing a couple of games, everybody could feel like we’re done. I woke up and said we worked hard in the gym, we just need to pick it up,” Sterling said.
“We just started playing better. That word [family] wasn’t brought to this team early in the season. They were trying to hit just home runs, not play for the team. We love baseball, so let’s just have fun. “
Morris hopes to echo a similar run it had in this tournament in 2009, where it reached the championship game before falling to Lehman. Corbo stresses to his team every day that the benefits of working hard and showing improvement can have positive ramifications in many areas.
“I need them to set their mark. That’s what we preach,” Corbo said. “Whether we look good on the field, as long as they are committed to being decent individuals, then baseball is a bonus. If they know how to harness that talent, then they will go far.”