From the time he played in his first varsity game on a chilly night in Chapel Hill, Cedar Ridge catcher Efrain Morales distinguished himself from the rest.
Now, after a sophomore season where he hit safely in 19 of Cedar Ridge’s 24 games, Morales has been honored by the North Carolina Baseball Coaches Association.
Under head coach Bryson Massey, Morales was named to the 3A All-State team by the NCBCA. He was one of 32 players honored and one of only two players from the Central Carolina Conference to make the squad.
In his first varsity season, Morales made an immediate impression. In the season-opener against Chapel Hill on March 2, Morales scored the game-winning run in the eighth inning to break a 7-7 tie after Garrett Ray drew a bases-loaded walk. Morales started the rally with a single to centerfield with two outs and the bases empty. Hitting leadoff, Morales went 2-for-4 in his varsity debut with an RBI single and a stolen base. The Red Wolves held on to win 9-8.
Two days later, Morales drove in the game-tying run against Bartlett Yancey in a pitcher’s dual at Red Wolves Territory. His sacrifice fly to centerfield scored Carlo Garay to even the game in the fifth inning against the Buccaneers. Cedar Ridge would go on to win 2-1 after Cristian Macias scored off an error in the sixth inning.
The early victories struck the right tone early for the Red Wolves, who would go on to its first winning season since 2018. After finishing second in the CCC, the Red Wolves reached the 3A State Playoffs for the first time in four years.
In 2022, Morales hit .338. He was the only player to hit a home run at Red Wolves Territory this season when he parked a fastball over the left field wall against Orange on April 19.
On March 10, Morales went 3-for-5 with two RBIs in an 11-2 win over Glenn High School at Truist Point in High Point. Morales drove in the game’s opening run with an single to centerfield to score Aidan Mcallister. The following inning, Morales lined an RBI single to centerfield to score Mason Cates and increase the Red Wolves lead to 4-0.
Morales was valuable in league games that led to the Red Wolves’ best conference finish since 2018, when they finished runner-up behind Chapel Hill in the Big 8 Conference under former head coach Jamie Athas. Against Northwood in Pittsboro on March 22, Morales went 2-for-4 with a double in a 6-1 victory for the Red Wolves. Morales bolted the Red Wolves ahead 2-0 after a line drive to right field to bring in Mcallister. In the fourth, Morales doubled down the right field line, driving in Braedyn Jacobson and B.J. Thornton. Morales eventually scored on a Little League homer after several Chargers errors.
In the Hilltop Invitational on April 1, Morales drilled a fastball into the teeth of a 25-mile-per-hour wind gust over the left field wall in the second inning against East Chapel Hill at Wildcats Field. He finished 2-for-4 against the Wildcats with three RBIs.
The following week, Morales went 2-for-2 with two RBIs in a 14-5 win over Apex Friendship in Wake County. After he walked in the first inning, Morales scored off a single by Garrett Ray. Morales drove in Thornton on a sacrifice fly in the second inning to put the Red Wolves ahead 5-0. He added an RBI single in the fifth.
In the second game of a doubleheader against Eastern Alamance in Mebane on April 8, Morales added a key hit in an 8-7 Cedar Ridge win. Morales doubled to centerfield to score Mcallister and Thornton, putting the Red Wolves ahead for good in the second inning. The victory completed a doubleheader sweep of the Eagles and secured an automatic trip to the state playoffs for Cedar Ridge.
Morales added another home run in a 4-1 win over Western Alamance in Elon on April 12. Against the Warriors, he finished 2-for-2 with four RBIs.
In addition, Morales also made the All-Central Carolina Conference team.