Morvay, Proper go out in style

Seniors to play in Valley All-Star Classic on Friday

Two Trumbull County All-Star standouts in Friday’s High School Valley All-Star Classic at Eastwood Field had exceptional senior seasons on the mound. However, those two pitchers — Lakeview’s D.J. Morvay and Niles’ Joe Proper — had very different paths to becoming so successful on the diamond.

Morvay led a young rotation under first-year coach Mike Johnson. Despite the youth movement, Morvay was the undisputed ace on the mound for the Bulldogs, and he backed that up with a 5-2 record, a 1.81 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 46 1/3 innings this past year.

Along the way, Morvay was one of two All-American Conference White Tier pitchers to receive first-team honors in 2017. Part of Morvay’s success comes down to pinpointing one thing to improve on, from start to start.

“Pitching-wise, I work on one thing each game. If I wasn’t happy with my arm slot one game, I’d work on ways of making it better the next game,” Morvay said. “I did not expect to get to this point, (but) I feel like I developed more defensively and got stronger, and I hit many more of my benchmarks.”

With a season like Morvay had, it’s certainly hard to argue with his methods. Coach Johnson said Morvay’s senior experience was valuable to his young squad, as Morvay stepped up to the challenge of leading the team and carrying himself exceptionally well, on and off the field.

The future YSU engineering student will continue playing for his Double-A summer league team in Youngstown, but Friday at 5:30 p.m., will mark his last official high school outing.

“It’ll be a lot of fun, good competition to go against,” Morvay said. “It’ll be fun playing with kids from Champion and seeing how their approach is, coming off of a state championship. It should be fun.”

While Morvay had a wealth of experience on the mound heading into 2017, Proper couldn’t exactly say the same thing. In fact, Proper, who went 3-0 with a 3.65 ERA in 23 innings, to go along with a .338 average, 20 RBIs and eight steals, had never made a varsity pitching start prior to this year.

The deep and talented Red Dragon rotation faced a bit of early-season adversity, between an injury and an ineligible player, making the pitching depth thin to start the season.

Niles coach T.C. Guarnieri called upon Proper, who -admitted he struggled as a varsity pitcher for three years, to give the Red Dragons an extra boost.

“He’s just an all-around very good baseball player,” Guarnieri said. “He was hitting close to .500 for two-thirds of the season, and he pitched in some of our biggest games, including (Lakewood) St. Ed’s and (Canton) GlenOak. That’s two impressive wins for Joe.”

Proper also started against Mogadore Field and Liberty on the season, but it was that outing against St. Edward that he and his coach will never forget. And although Friday marks Proper’s last high school game, as he, like Morvay, will play in a summer league before heading off to college, the future Slippery Rock computer science major is still beaming about that day.

“I’ll remember that for my whole life,” Proper said. “That was only my second start, and it was good to get a win after that. Plus, coach (Guarnieri) promised to buy us Dairy Queen if we won.”