CARY, N.C. – Harvard-Westlake High is back in the semifinals for the second year in a row at the National High School Invitational, after taking down Bingham High 2-0 on Thursday afternoon.
Pitching has been the key to success so far in the tournament for Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.), with Conor Cuse throwing their second shutout in two days.
"It was a great one today," Harvard-Westlake coach Matt LaCour said. "The offense struggled a little bit but Conor pitched his tail off so that carried us through obviously; an outstanding performance by him."
Bingham (Utah) wasn't sure what to expect out of their opponent on the mound, and they couldn't manage to plate any runs against the righthander despite some late opportunities.
"We knew that he would either be really good or really bad," Bingham coach Joel Sato said of Cuse. "That's what the scouting report was, and we got the really good guy today. So in the game we were trying to be a little patient and see if he was going to be around the strike zone and then when he was, we had to change and adjust.
"We had some good at-bats later on in the game. We had guys in scoring position all game long, with one out or less, and we couldn't deliver. He was tough. You've got to give credit to him. He made good pitches and got outs when he needed to."
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Cuse went the full seven innings and allowed just four hits to the Miners, walking one and striking out eight. The key to victory for him was staying aggressive on every pitch and being able to throw all of his pitches for strikes.
"I know that if I just throw my pitches well that I'm going to have success and I'm going to do well against anybody," Cuse said. "I just stuck with that and focused on hitting my spots and throwing all my pitches."
Bingham countered on the hill with Brandon Morley, a 6-foot-11, 180-pound righthander. He went five innings and gave up just one run on four hits, walking one and striking out one.
"When I saw their roster I thought it was a misprint," LaCour said. "I saw 6-foot-11 in the media guide for the tournament and I said, 'Somebody must have screwed that up pretty bad.' I couldn't see a 6'11" guy out there. And then he walked out of the dugout. It was pretty easy to figure out who he was."
Sato was incredibly impressed with Morley's performance and looks forward to seeing more of what he can do with the basketball season over, bringing his attention to baseball.
"Our 6'11" guy – we thought the optical illusion might help us in this game against a really good ball club like that," Bingham's coach said. "He did a good job. He's just coming out of basketball so he's probably only been throwing for about a month now [because] he doesn't pick up a baseball during basketball, so for him to come out and give us a performance like that is a feather in his cap. We're happy with that. That will get us down the road a long way in Utah."
For Harvard-Westlake to continue down the NHSI road to the championship once again, they have some work to do. Top prospect Jack Flaherty went 2-for-2 with a double and a run scored in Thursday's action but otherwise the offense couldn't muster much.
"I felt really good about our offense yesterday," LaCour said. "I don't feel that great about our offense and what we did out there today. We left a bunch of guys in scoring position with less than two outs. I thought our at-bats with runners in scoring position weren't very good.
"You get into the latter part of this tournament and you're going to have to hit. You're going to have to put some runs on the board and we're going to have to do that. We have that capability. We've just got to do a better job going forward in the next couple of days."