Andrew Morales Pitches Perfect

David Conley | New University

David Conley | New University

FLAWLESS: With a perfect 9-0 record in 2013, Morales finds motivation in a battle off of the field.

The petite and gentle 12-year-old Emily Morales steps up in front of the television screen. She takes her mark and fires a bowling ball down the lanes like a professional — the ball collides successfully and violently — strike.

Andrew Morales, UC Irvine’s starting Sunday pitcher who has thrown for a perfect 9-0 record this season, doesn’t have quite the spotless record in Wii bowling like his younger sister Emily does.

“She was one strike away from a perfect game, she beats me every time,” Andrew said on his little sister’s close-to-perfect bowling scores.

“I compete. I’m a competitor,” the third-year transfer, who worked his way into Irvine’s starting rotation, said. “I’m a very competitive person and I don’t like to lose, at all.”

Whether it be losing in Wii bowling or at the yard, Andrew said, “I don’t have to be pitching. If we lose, my reaction is as if I was pitching that game, I feel it the same way. I feel like [my teammates and I] all have that in common, and once you have that attitude it’s pretty easy to love something. Losing is not fun.”

With a competitive edge and a perfect record 11 weeks into the 2013 season and a 1.60 ERA, Morales has done everything in his power to make sure that he gets a W, not so that he can see another win next to his name, but so that he can add a W to Irvine’s win column.

“It’s about helping the team,” Morales said. “I don’t think about it as my personal achievement. We all have the common goal of going to Omaha, so anything I can do to help is always a plus.”

David Conley | New University

David Conley | New University

Just in his first year at Irvine, Morales has already garnered Big West Weekly honors twice this season.

Morales received his first Big West recognition on April 8 after throwing a one-hitter against Hawai’i with six perfect innings, climbing to a perfect 7-0 with the win.

Then on April 22 against Cal State Northridge, the starter threw a career-high 8.1 shutout innings that extended his scoreless inning streak to 22.2 frames. Morales struck out eight in the outing, just one shy of his personal best.

The Rio Hondo Community College transfer was also named the ESPN Zone Anaheim Anteater of the Week on April 23 for his efforts in the 1-0 victory over Pacific on the 22nd.

A week prior to his Big West recognition, Morales was named to the College Baseball Hall of Fame Pitcher of the Year Watch List. The right-handed pitcher was second in the nation at the time with a flawless 8-0 standing.

“You can’t be afraid to lose, and I’m not. I just give the best that I can and control what I can control. I don’t give [the perfect record] too much thought. Everyday I go into the game as 0-0,” the humble Morales said.

When asked what makes it possible to own a perfect 9-0 after so many outings, the grateful RHP started naming off teammates and praising their talent and dedication.

“Defense is always key. We have [Chris] Rabago at short, who is hands down one of the best shortstops I’ve ever played with. Ronnie [Shaeffer] and Jerry [McClanahan] are great. We have a solid infield and a solid outfield, especially with [Dominique Taylor] running out balls. Timely hitting is also key, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have some run support. And then I have to do my job. Even with the run support, I have to go out there and perform.”

Morales, like his younger sister Emily, is dedicated to performing and to winning.

While Morales spends countless hours perfecting his craft to get the wins while at war on the field, he has a greater battle on his mind and a even sweeter victory to celebrate.

Emily, who plays Wii bowling with her big brother on any occasion that she can get, loves showing off the skills that she perfected after suddenly having so much extra time to spend at home.

On October 21, 2011 at 11 years old, Emily was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL).

“It’s a motivation,” said the big brother to a sister who is in remission. “A lot of the time she doesn’t have a lot to get excited about, but she is my biggest fan. She is at every game and it’s a motivator. I have to set an example for what I want her to see and she’s always pushing me forward. She’s an amazing individual and I hope to be as strong as her one day.”

David Conley | New University

David Conley | New University

In the face of such tragedy and hardship, Morales’ positive spirit and thankful attitude describes the situation as “a blessing.”

“They caught it really early and she’s been responding well to treatment. In that sense, she’s doing really well.”

While Morales beamed from ear to ear, he discussed phone calls from Emily, FaceTime sessions and her ability to always brighten his day.

“She asks me how I’m doing, which is what I should be asking her.”

Emily, as well as the rest of his family, is what makes the difference for Andrew on the mound.

While Morales talks about the importance of a calm mentality during his outings for the ’Eaters, he is never alone on the bump — with “EM” written in black sharpie on the underside of the bill of his cap, Andrew takes Emily with him on the field for every game that he throws.

As his little sister’s biggest advocate, the newcomer talked with coach Gillespie prior to the first game of the season about Emily throwing out the first pitch in 2013.

“I told [Gillespie] that last year [with Rio Hondo] we made it to the state finals and she threw out the first pitch, so you never know it might be good luck. [Gillespie] had no objection.”

So, on February 15 against Baylor in the season opener, Emily hurled the first pitch of the year in Anteater Ballpark with as much fineness and skill as her big brother.

“She was so excited that she could be a part of our team, and a part of our moment.”

As a Division I athlete and ballplayer, it is not his flawless record that defines him, it is his unwavering spirit.

As passionate as the pitcher is about the game that he loves, it is evident Emily has his heart.