Tuesday afternoon, students at Sherwood got to witness something which had never occurred in the school’s 54-year history: the presentation of an athletic state championship trophy. The trophy was won by the Lady Marksmen on Saturday when they won the state 2A fall softball title.
Senior catcher Grace Parrott, who scored the winning run in the title game, summed up the attitude of the players.
“This is just so exciting; I can’t stop smiling. Our goal was to win districts and when we did, we just kept adding one more goal, the next game, all the way to the state championship,” she said.
The title was clinched when the Lady Marksmen defeated Palmyra 2-0 at Springfield.
“This is pretty awesome for our school, parents and our community,” Sherwood coach Lonny Price said. “The girls really adopted the team-first atmosphere this year to make it happen. They worked well together and practiced hard. I don’t think we had a girl miss one (practice) all year.”
Parrott added, “We practiced in 100-degree weather, in rain, sleet and snow.”
In the championship game, junior pitcher Mac Morgan, who has already committed to playing college ball at Arizona State University, did what she has done all season, dominating the Palmyra offense, allowing just one hit while striking out 14. The Panthers only scoring threat occurred in the fourth inning when they had runners on second and third with only one out. Morgan escaped any damage by getting a strikeout and a weak grounder to first baseman Kelsi Mainard to end the inning.
Morgan said the key was to remain calm.
“It was pretty intense, but you just have to stay calm in every situation. I just had to take it pitch by pitch,” she said.
Morgan finished the season with 366 strikeouts while pitching every inning for her team, compiling a 26-3 record with a 1.20 ERA while allowing only 29 hits in the process. Offensively, she was also a force, hitting .590 with 14 home runs and 57 RBI.
All the offense the Lady Marksmen would need occurred in the top of the first inning when senior leadoff batter Grace Parrott – a .654 hitter for the season and Missouri Southern State University in Joplin signee – was hit by a pitch and then alertly scored on a double by Morgan that was bobbled on the relay back to the infield.
“That was a really heads-up play,” Price said of Parrott’s base running. “We knew it was going to be a tight, low-scoring game because they had a good pitcher also so it was very important to score first.”
Parrott said once the game began, it was just another game and that first inning was an example.
“You just want to get on base. A hit by pitch is the same as a hit,” she said.
The Lady Marksmen plated their second run in the fifth inning when Sam Hook hit a bases loaded sacrifice fly to score pinch runner Becca Riffle, who came in to run for Shy Janssen.
Sherwood defeated East Carter 5-0 in the semifinal on Friday to advance to the championship. Price told the crowd Tuesday that win was no gimme. “East Carter had not given up a run in 35 innings. And put up five against them,” he said.
To make it to state, the Lady Marksmen may have faced their biggest challenge of the season.
That’s because they had to beat a Warsaw team in the quarterfinals that had given them two of their three losses this season and outscored them 12-0 in the process.
Sherwood, however, controlled the quarterfinal game and came away with a 4-1 victory.
“We were really focused that day and played a great game,” Price said. “We had to because Warsaw was very good too.”
Morgan said she is still having trouble believing what has happened.
“I knew each and every one of us would give it our best, I just didn’t know we could go this far. I am very proud of this group of girls. We worked very hard and I believe we earned it,” Morgan said.
She also had a very simple expression of how the team relates to being the school’s first-ever state champions.
She said, “We are very honored.”