White, Morrison key to Cathedral’s South State hopes

Published 12:01 am Thursday, May 13, 2010

NATCHEZ — When Cathedral’s No. 1 starting pitcher Dylan White went down with an injury in the final week of the regular season, it looked like a huge roadblock would be thrown in front of the Green Wave’s quest to win its first state championship since 2004.

But thanks to a steady senior with a knack for pitching well in big games and an unheralded junior who had less than 20 innings of relief work all season, it has been smooth sailing through the playoffs so far.

Senior right-hander Aaron White and junior lefty Tyler Morrison have combined to allow only three earned runs in four playoff games so far.

But there is one more obstacle to clear before the Green Wave can punch its ticket to Trustmark Park in Pearl. And that is archrival St. Aloysius in the South State championship series, which begins at 6 p.m. today at Chester Willis Field in Natchez.

“I’ve been ready for this game all year,” said Aaron White, who has had no trouble sliding in from the No. 2 spot in the rotation to No. 1 after Dylan White’s injury. “I’ve just got to go out there and throw strikes, and rust my defense behind me.”

And that’s exactly what White did when he faced the Flashes in the regular season, tossing a four-hit shutout in Cathedral’s stunning 12-0 road victory on April 1.

“My curveball worked really good in that game,” White said. “When I have my offspeed stuff working, it’s tough for the batters to guess which pitch is coming.”

But White’s success has been no surprise to Cathedral coach Craig Beesley.

“I knew Aaron would be really good for us,” Beesley said. “He has thrown well for us the past two years and did well last year in spot pitching for us.”

And Beesley said there’s no one he’d rather have on the mound tonight than White.

“He has really taken that leadership role on,” Beesley said. “He wants to be the one on the mound when the pressure is tight. That’s what seniors are there for.”

But while the success of the senior White has been no surprise, the same can’t be said for Morrison, who will draw the start in Game 2 on Friday.

The junior southpaw, who pitched in relief all season, has been sensational in the playoffs.

He threw a no-hitter in Cathedral’s 11-0 first round win over Ethel and then allowed just one earned run in the Green Wave’s 16-3 second round victory over Weir.

“Tyler has been a big surprise for us,” Beesley said. “That first game he threw a no-hitter, which gave him a lot of confidence. If he is throwing strikes for us, he’s pretty good.”

Morrison said he was waiting on his chance to show his talents, and the opportunity has materialized in the playoffs.

“I’ve been waiting on my chance to get out there,” Morrison said. “I knew I could do it. I’ve been working hard throughout the year, and it’s finally paid off. I’ve been on fire.”

Morrison relies mainly on offspeed pitches, which is why he was used in relief this season, Beesley said.

“We were trying to bring him in behind Dylan because he’s lefthanded and throws offspeed stuff and it’s a change of pace from Dylan, who throws hard,” Beesley said. “But once we lost Dylan we were looking for Tyler to step up in that spot and he’s done a good job for us.”

But Beesley, White and Morrison know that the St. Al lineup Cathedral will be facing is entirely different from the lineups of Ethel and Weir, as well as the charged atmosphere that surrounds the series.

“We know it will be a pressure-packed series,” Beesley said. “It’s a big challenge for us and both our pitchers. But I think they will step up and meet the challenge.”

For his part, Morrison said he won’t be rattled by the hostile atmosphere he is sure to face in Vicksburg Friday night.

“I haven’t really thought about it,” Morrison said. “I’ll try to treat it like any other game. I’m ready for it.”

And Beesley thinks White is ready for the biggest start of his career tonight in Game 1.

“I feel like he’s ready for this,” Beesley said. “He’s ready to step into the spotlight as a pitcher. He’s always been a good hitter and defender, but now he’s ready to step on the mound and be that No. 1 pitcher for us.”