Kory Craddick, Salado’s head softball coach, didn’t do a whole lot of losing this spring.
“Well, there was that coin toss,” he said.
Yeah, the coin toss.
After the Salado Lady Eagles made a quick dismissal of Clifton in the first round of the postseason, Teague was Craddick’s next foe.
Teague, with a plethora of strong hitters, wanted a one-game, winner-advance contest; Craddick preferred a best-of-three series. Hence, the lost coin toss.
And so on May 2, the Lady Eagles traveled to China Spring to face Teague in a one-game, winner-advance, loser-go-home contest.
“There was a lot of pressure on us,” said Morgan Hill, Salado’s senior southpaw pitching ace.
Then Hill tossed a masterpiece, a Rembrandt, a Monet, a gem, a … well, you get the idea.
She yielded zero hits through the first three innings. She had eight strikeouts through four innings. She struck out two more batters in the fifth.
In seven full innings of work, Hill struck out 14 batters, yielded two scattered hits and no earned runs. The Lady Eagles won 5-1.
“It was an absolutely incredible performance by Morgan,” Craddick said. “We were facing an excellent Teague team and Morgan was lights out. And that is Morgan Hill for you — she’ll give you everything she has all the time. She knew we needed her and she came through beautifully.”
And she kept it rolling.
Hill was again superb in Salado’s two-game sweep of Bruceville-Eddy.
In the regional semifinals at College Station vs. Woodville, Hill struck out eight in a Game 1 complete-game victory.
Two days later, Hill shut out Woodville. In Salado’s 3-0 series-clinching win, Hill yielded a grand total of two hits while striking out six. More than not giving up a run, no Woodville batter even made it to third base.
“Unbelievable,” Craddick said. “Morgan pitched tremendously in Game 1 and then she goes right back out there in Game 2 and knocks Woodville out with a shutout. It was fantastic.”
And with that Game 2 win, the Lady Eagles advanced into the Elite Eight for the first time in school history.
On May 24, Hill was the winning pitcher against Crawford, handing the Lady Pirates their only loss of the season.
Ultimately, Salado finished the year with a record of 32-9.
“What I’ll remember most about this year was being part of such a great team,” Hill said. “I felt very supported by my teammates, the way they played defense behind me.”
In the circle, Hill had a 25-7 overall won-loss record, which includes an 8-2 mark in the playoffs. And so for her overall outstanding season, Hill is the Killeen Daily Herald All-Area Most Valuable Player.
“It’s an awesome choice,” Craddick said. “It speaks volumes about Morgan.”
“I think it’s fantastic that Morgan is getting this award,” said Salado shortstop Malory Schattle, the KDH All-Area Offensive MVP. “She was our star pitcher. She is the one who led us into doing what so many people told us we couldn’t do.”
“I feel blessed,” Hill said. “There are so many kids in our area playing softball, so to get this award I feel very honored.”
Hill brought a seven-pitch arsenal into the circle.
Fastball, curveball, back-door curve, changeup, screwball, rise-ball and drop-ball.
Most often, Craddick called the pitches. But he gave Hill carte blanche to change any call.
“Morgan trusted me and I trusted her right back,” Craddick said. “Morgan can throw all of her pitches very well. But if one wasn’t working, we could easily rely on some different pitches. Morgan is a very smart pitcher.”
And a very smart kid. If you want to discuss with Hill how it feels to get a “B” on her report card, you’d have a very quick discussion.
All Hill ever received in four years at Salado was an “A.” Every class, every year.
Oh, and perhaps we should add that while leading the Lady Eagles to their best softball season in school history, the 5-foot-5 Hill was simultaneously competing for Salado on its track team. More than that, Hill advanced all the way to the State Meet in Austin in the 100 hurdles.
“Morgan is a young lady that you want your daughters to grow up to be like,” Craddick said. “She’s a great Christian kid that knows her morals and will go out every day to do her best — no matter what the situation is.
“I admire her so much. Morgan Hill always has strived — and always will strive — to be the very best person she can be.”
Contact Allan Mandell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 254-501-7566 and read his column at KDHPressbox.com