May 27, 2009

 

By Amy Farnum Novin
NCAA.com

Alabama softball player Charlotte Morgan has not allowed constant pain keep her from playing an integral role in leading the Crimson Tide back to the Women’s College World Series for the second straight season.

The junior from Moreno Valley, Calif., has played through the pain before – she suffered a stress fracture in her foot in February 2008, yet worked through the rest of the year to garner All-America honors before undergoing two offseason surgeries. 

“I think last year it made me pitch better because I had to step off my foot,” said Morgan.  “Since I’m a drop ball pitcher, it helped me get up and off.  It would only really kill me when I would take an inside pitch.  I would feel a shooting pain.  I’m a player that likes to work hard and do a lot of extra work and I had to cut back from that.  I couldn’t take extra batting practice, so I really had to think about the mental game and get stronger in that aspect.”

Morgan returned this year hoping the surgeries had solved the problem, but the pain came back.  She sought another doctor’s opinion, who said the bone was dead, and could not be operated on without ending her season.  Morgan, like last year, pushed on and made adjustments in both her swing and pitching motions.

“It’s really affected me more so this year than last year because I don’t have motion in my toes anymore, so I cannot pivot my foot as much,” said Morgan.  “It’s kind of hard sometimes to start my swing or my hips won’t come through all the way on my swing anymore.  I’m not used to having something hold me back.  Knowing that there’s nothing that I could do about the injury, I had to figure out how to become the hitter I know I can be and be the same pitcher and player as before.”

Incredibly, you would never know Morgan’s situation by looking at her numbers.  The two-time Southeastern Conference first-team pick was voted the league’s Player of the Year after pacing the SEC in hitting (.447) and RBI (34).  The pitcher/utility player also made eight starts against SEC opponents, earning a 6-4 mark and striking out 63 batters in 62.0 innings pitched.  Overall, Morgan tops the Tide with a .414 batting average, 56 RBI and 10 home runs as well as a 17-6 mark and 1.87 ERA as Alabama’s No. 2 pitcher.

“Towards the middle of the season, I would have said I would not accomplish what I have this year,” said Morgan.  “I didn’t feel very consistent.  I personally don’t think I’m there.  I worked hard and found every little way to perform well despite the setbacks that I had.  I’m still a little amazed at what I accomplished this year.”

Morgan says after losing two of three games at South Carolina in mid-April that she and senior ace Kelsi Dunne did a gut-check, and the team as a whole became more cohesive.

“Kelsi and I sat down and said we’ve got to get over the injuries, and not blame anyone but ourselves if we give up a hit,” said Morgan.  “I think we’ve only lost one game since then (vs. No. 1 Florida May 9).  We just all sat down and said we need to make a change and we came together as a team, and brought a sense of urgency while having fun at the same time.”

With an experienced squad that boasts five seniors, the Tide is looking to make the most of another chance at the WCWS in Oklahoma City this week.

“Last year, I feel like everything I had was left on the field, and I wanted to know that this year that I had more than that to give,” said Morgan.  “I didn’t want any regrets, and wanted to make sure my body was in shape enough to last all those games.  I’ve been trying to get the team to understand that it’s not going to be as easy as a five-inning game.  There are great teams there and it can be one play or one pitch that wins or loses.  You just never know – you have to be ready.”

Fourth-seeded Alabama will face No. 5 Michigan at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium May 28. It’s the Tide’s sixth WCWS appearance.