Yet, during Saturday's conference doubleheader, the Odessa College baseball team's starting first baseman that holds a .444 batting average and 27 extra base hits couldn't find a rhythm at the plate against Clarendon College.
That was until Morales' final trip to the plate — which resulted in a walk-off, three-run home run to right-center field — and it helped the No. 9 Wranglers salvage a split with the Bulldogs at American Legion Park.
Backed by a strong start from Jean Luis Alvarado, Clarendon College grabbed a 5-1 victory in the opener on Saturday, but the bats finally came alive for Odessa College during the nightcap for a 13-5 win in seven innings.
"I think it was about 10 at bats since I hit a ball hard," said Morales, who was 1 of 6 and left six runners on base before his final at bat. "I was pretty happy (about the home run)."
On the season, Morales has 14 doubles, 11 home runs, two triples, 47 RBIs and 48 runs scored to go along with one of the top batting averages on the team. Morales leads the team in RBIs and he's tied with Mitch Holding for the most doubles and home runs.
Kurtis Lay — the head coach for Odessa College — said the sophomore from Cedar Hill made an adjustment and attacked pitches that he could drive in the second contest.
"(Morales) is always a threat to leave the yard," Lay said. "He did struggle for a good part of the day, but hats off to him. He didn't allow it to affect him and he got to two strikes (in his final at bat), the pitcher made a mistake and he made him pay for it."
With the Saturday split, the Wranglers won three of four games against Clarendon College to improve to 34-8 overall and 19-5 in the WJCAC. Clarendon College sits 22-19 and 14-10.
Holding said the team's goal to win every series and he knows that isn't an easy task.
"Obviously, we try to do the best we can and it would be great to win all four, but winning the series is definitely the goal every weekend," he said. "We just take it each game at time and once that game is over, we take a new approach going into a new game and we do everything we can do to win."
In the opener, Alvarado struck out five of the first seven batters he faced.
The freshman right-handed pitcher threw six innings, allowed one run on five hits and struck out six. Alvarado and relief Reid Bukowski stranded nine Odessa College base runners. The Bulldogs also pounced on opportunities at the plate after Jonathan Ottenwalder hit a two-run single in the top of the fourth inning.
"Odessa has a great lineup and they don't chase a whole lot out of the zone," Clarendon College head coach Devin McIntosh said. "(Alvarado) was able to change speeds in the zone and expand up a little early in the game and get them to chase up, which isn't easy to do."
Clarendon College scored three of the next four runs with RBIs coming from Erik Rodriguez and Jose Solis. Holding supplied the team's lone run on a solo home run in bottom of the sixth inning. Chandler Casey was tagged with the loss after he allowed five runs on six hits and struck out eight over 6 1/3 innings.
During the second game, Odessa College returned the favor and capitalized on Clarendon College miscues. The Wranglers plated five runs in the first inning and continued to score in four of the next six innings.
Odessa College posted 14 hits as Kyler Castillo and Angel Torres each supplied three. Grant Jones helped break the game open with a two-run single in the first inning. Morales also supplied a two-run single in the fourth inning to help Odessa College expand its lead, 8-1.
However, after an RBI groundout from Solis in the fifth inning, Odessa College starting pitcher Shaston Johnson injured his leg on the play. He attempted to throw warm-up pitches to stay in the game, but the Wranglers went to freshman Tresten Kennard for his fifth relief appearance. Johnson collected the win after he pitched 4 1/3 innings, allowed two runs and struck out five.
Kennard gave up two runs before he closed out the fifth inning. Kennard pitched 2 2/3 innings and allowed three runs on six hits. Solis was tagged with the loss after he allowed five runs (four earned) and was relieved after the first inning.
"It was one of those things where (Johnson) might have been able to pitch on, but at this point in the year and looking forward to what we got left, it was just better for us to go to the bullpen at that time," Lay said.
The Wranglers have 12 conference games left in the regular season schedule. Morales knows each conference contest for the remainder of the season is significant.
Odessa College sits one game back of No. 13 Midland College for the top spot in the conference. The Wranglers and Chaparrals will have to wait until the last weekend of the regular season for their series. Odessa College travels to Howard College at noon Friday.
"We definitely want to be a good seed going into that regional tournament, so every game is important," Morales said. "It doesn't matter if it's one of the top teams in the conference or one of the bottom teams."
Article by Royal McGregor OA