OTTAWA — Morris got a complete game's worth, and then some, of innings without an earned run allowed from pitcher Brian Henry and another clutch hit from Grant Davis.
And yet the Redskins' first regional championship since 2003 eluded them again Saturday morning.
Top-seeded Morris lost 4-3 in nine innings to third-seeded La Salle-Peru in the championship game at the Class 3A Ottawa Baseball Regional. The Redskins exit with a 27-7 record, which is good for their highest win total since 1999,
"Both teams had moments where they didn't execute in certain situations, and both teams got big hits," Morris coach Todd Kein said. "They just got one more than we did."
L-P produced the winning run after there were two outs and the bases were empty in the top of the ninth inning. Bret Storm ended a string of six straight batters retired by Henry with a single. Storm stole second base on Henry's third pitch to Noah Lamboley, allowing him to score when Lamboley singled into center field.
Preston Miracle relieved Henry and walked Adam Happ before getting Austin Smith to fly out to end the inning. In the bottom half of the inning, Smith struck out the top three hitters in the Morris lineup in order in his second inning in relief of Kyle Jenkins.
Henry had not pitched more than three innings in any of his outings since returning from injury before throwing 8 2/3 Saturday. He totaled 124 pitches, 87 of which were strikes.
"I thought he did an outstanding job," Kein said of Henry. "We were concerned about his stamina, but it was a pretty easy decision to leave him in in the spots that we did today. I'll live and die with him in any game."
L-P's other three runs all scored in the top of the fifth inning. Nate Burris hit a leadoff single, and after Storm reached on a fielder's choice, Lamboley walked. Happ then hit a smash that Morris third baseman Ryan Borgstrom knocked down, picked up and then dropped as he was attempting to beat Storm to the bag. After a Smith RBI groundout, Jenkins hit a two-run single to right field.
"I thought, 'I just gotta get the next guy,' but it didn't happen," Henry said of the error. "I felt comfortable out there. ... I don't know. If I could (have one play back), I guess it would be their last hit."
Morris, which scored runs in the second and fifth innings on RBI singles from Jason Matteson and Trevor Lines, was down 3-2 entering the bottom of the seventh inning. With one out, No. 9 hitter Austin Conrod blooped a single into left field. Jenkins got Matteson to fly out, but Lines dropped down a bunt single and Davis singled to plate Conrod with the tying run.
"I think it's amplified because of it being a regional championship, but that's just a sample of what we've seen all year. As a coach, I can't tell you how nice it is to be heading to the bottom of the seventh and you're down and you still feel confident," Kein said.
"Austin Conrod, with that hit to left, really ignited our team. Grant Davis again comes through with the big hit. If you've watched our team this year, you're used to seeing that. .. I gave (Lines) the sign to think about (bunting), but the decision to follow through with it was all his own. And it was just great execution.
"Each of those individual highlights was what was needed for us to rally, and it's just another example of the fight that this team has. We won 27 games, which is the most we've had in a while, and all of the credit for it goes to our players. ... I'm damn proud of their effort."
For Henry, the hard-luck loss was the first of the season against seven wins. He is one of six seniors that contributed Saturday and one of 10 on the roster.
"I thought we had something special ... we did have something special," Henry said.