• November 25, 2014

Allan Mandell On Sports Faith-based, fastballs and French braids

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Posted: Sunday, June 22, 2014 12:14 am

Oh, so that’s how Morgan Hill had such a spectacular 2014 season.

“I wore my hair the exact same way before every single game,” said Hill, the Killeen Daily Herald 2014 All-Area Softball Most Valuable Player honoree. “It was a French braid into a pony tail.”

Superstitious, eh?

“Of course!” Hill said. “I think it’s a baseball player and softball player thing.”

True enough.

Wade Boggs ate chicken before every game and took exactly 117 ground balls in pre-game practices and he didn’t do too bad with those superstitions. Boggs batted .328 in his major league career and was a first-ballot inductee into the Hall of Fame.

Hill led the 2014 Salado Lady Eagles softball team to the Elite Eight — for the first time in school history — with a pitching won-loss record of 25-7.

“I know, deep down, it doesn’t really matter how I wear my hair,” Hill said. “But I wasn’t about to take any chances.”

Hill started out the 2014 season — her senior year — very strong. She remained highly effective the rest of the regular season and then was electrifying in the playoffs.

“On every one of our road games, I’d take a nap on the bus,” Hill said. “And once I got woken up, I’d make Meagan do my hair.”

Meagan Hill is Morgan’s

sister. Meagan, a sophomore, was Salado’s starting second baseman this year.

“At first, Meagan was a little annoyed with it all,” Morgan said. “But after a while, she stopped arguing about it because it was working. She didn’t want to change anything either. Closer to the end of the season, during our long playoff run when we were really hot, she’d be the one to push things. She’d say, ‘OK, Morgan. Let’s go! I’m doing your hair now.’”

And what about home games? The French braid into a pony tail done by Meagan? Home games, too?

“Of course!” Morgan said. “You can’t change anything if it’s working. The only problem is I don’t know what I’ll do next year when I’m pitching at college. Meagan won’t be there.

“But I’ll figure out what I need to do.”

And that truly is the essence of Morgan Hill as a southpaw pitcher extraordinaire: She always seems to figure out what needs to be done on the diamond — and then does it.

“It really was one of Morgan’s greatest strengths — adaptability,” said Salado head coach Kory Craddick.

“No matter what the situation, Morgan could adapt.”

When Morgan was informed she was the All-Area MVP, she gave a one-word response.

“Wow!”

And, moments later, true to her character, she was thankful. First, to her teammates.

“I’m just glad that I was able to be part of a successful team, a team that made school history.”

Second, Hill thanked her coach.

“I remember the day I signed for college,” Hill said. “I could see how happy he was for me knowing that this was so important to me.”

Hill, heavily involved in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, had only one request of the Herald — that we include the following quote from her: “To me, faith is more important than softball. What I did this year was not from me.

“It wasn’t what I did. It was what God did.”

Hill will pitch for McLennan Community College in Waco next year.

“I’m far more excited than nervous about pitching for them,” she said.

Craddick shares that excitement.

“After the season, when Morgan turned her stuff in, I told her to just keep doing what she’s doing,” Craddick said. “I told her college will be different, a lot more work. I just told her to find the ‘fun place’ when she’s pitching. Morgan is so competitive and she is a lot tougher on herself than any coach could ever be. But once Morgan finds that ‘fun place,’ making sure she’s enjoying herself on that field, she’s at her best. She just smiled and said, ‘OK. I understand, Coach.’ I fully believe the sky is the limit for her.

“She’ll be going to a very good junior college and then, in two years, I see her pitching for a D-I school. I know she can do it. I just hope she picks a school close to here so I can go watch her pitch all the time.

“Of course I have so much faith in Morgan that I’m sure she’ll be on television leading a D-I school to Oklahoma City — where they play the College World Series.”

And watching Morgan Hill pitch on television would be fun for any of us who have ever watched her striking out batter after batter with smoking-hot fastballs, nasty curveballs, fall-off-the-table drop-balls or sly changeups.

But if you haven’t ever seen Hill pitch, it won’t take you long to spot her on your television set.

Look for the pitcher with a French braid into a pony tail.

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