Lady Bears Look to Capture Second MEAC Tournament Title in Three Years

The Morgan State Lady Bears softball team (24-19, 14-4 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) won their third straight MEAC regular season title, and their fourth in six years.


Courtesy of Instagram

The Lady Bears celebrate their first MEAC softball title in 2021.

Alex Ederson, Co-Sports Editor

Morgan State’s softball team attained their third straight regular season championship and look to cap off this season with Morgan’s second ever Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament title.

The 2023 MEAC Softball Tournament will take place from May 10 to 13 and the Lady Bears come into the tournament as the top seeded team in the MEAC, vying for an automatic berth to the NCAA softball tournament.

The Lady Bears made their first NCAA appearance in 2021 after winning the MEAC Tournament for the first time in the program’s history, and they return seven players from that MEAC Tournament winning team. Returning are: 

  • Utility Sarah Tuzinski (Junior)
  • Pitcher/ First Base Emily Raubuch (Junior)
  • First Base Madison Bolyea (Junior)
  • Shortstop/ Second Base Ky’Anah Lake (Junior)
  • Shortstop Mia Ewell (Junior)
  • Pitcher/ Third Base Melissa Paz (Senior)
  • Outfielder Deborah Hamilton (Senior)

The Next Generation

Junior shortstop Mia Ewell is one of those returning from that 2021 and she now looks to take the place of the mentor that her sister was to her. Mia’s older sister, Aliya, played outfield for the Lady Bears from 2020 to 2022. The elder Ewell finished her Morgan career with a “slash line” of .309/.387/.491 and was a key piece on the MEAC Championship team in 2021.

Mia Ewell said, “When I was a freshman, my older sister was (an) upperclassmen. So having her (around), I always got, you know, that kind of sisterly tough love.”

Ewell, .274/.393/.368, was able to learn a lot of valuable lessons from the other upperclassmen as she learned what it took to become a champion from her other teammates. “One thing that they really taught me was to just play within myself. Don’t worry about all of the other things going on around.” 

Now Ewell is looked as one of the elder stateswomen of the team. She has been a part of a team that won back-to-back-to-back regular season MEAC titles as well the MEAC tournament. She is now laying down the blueprint for classes under her.

“I think … for the younger girls, I think that they have something to work towards… they see…what us upperclassmen can do and know that at some point …they’re gonna have to come and take our spot … because we’re going to be gone and they have shoes to fill. Since I was a freshman, we’ve always been a team that’s … come in first in the conference or in the championship game. So I feel like I’m setting an example of … what you need to get done to be successful.”

A Bitter Defeat

Coming into the 2023 season, some of the Lady Bears had been left with a bitter feeling in their mouths as the team had won the regular season title but stumbled in a two game series against Howard University. 

Senior pitcher/first base Victoria Fletcher, .343/.378/.560, said, “I like to look at it as this isn’t our revenge year or come back year. This is our year, like this is what we were destined to do. Last year, you know, we came up short, we beat ourselves in two back to back games when it really mattered.” 

Fletcher was one of the breakout players of the 2022 MEAC Tournament, being one of only two Morgan players named to the 2022 MEAC All-Tournament Team. She felt the team left a lot on the field the year prior and now it’s their time to “live up to the expectation of being a Morgan State softball player.” 

“We’re expected to win,” Fletcher said, “We’re expected to make it to that (MEAC) tournament. We’re expected to win (the) tournament … We’re expected to get one percent better (every practice) …  that’s who we are, and that’s what we need, to get better every single day leading up to the tournament.”

With another year under her belt, Fletcher grew into her role within the team. She established herself as one of the top bats on the team as well as within the MEAC. However, Fletcher feels as a pitcher people tend to overlook her abilities. 

“A lot of people can look at me and be like, ‘Oh, she’s a great hitter’, but they don’t really see the work that I put into pitching too.” Fletcher posted a 9-4 record as a pitcher with 2.21 expected runs against per game and 4.22 strikeouts or “K’s” per seven innings. 

You’re Not Robots Out There

Fletcher was not the Lady Bears’ top “ace” though as that title belonged to reigning MEAC Pitcher of the Year junior Anaya Hunte. Hunte was the Bears top arm in the rotation, pitching 82 more innings than the next closest pitcher, and posted a 15-8 record with a 2.26 ERA, and 5.99 K’s per seven innings. Starters Hunte and Fletcher made for the best rotation in the MEAC, setting the stage for a Lady Bear to repeat as MEAC Pitcher of the Year for the first time since 2017 – 2018.

Head Coach Larry Hineline is a highly knowledgeable coach in the game and is seen as one of the best coaches for pitchers in the MEAC. He has currently coached five MEAC Pitchers of the Year, three for Morgan and two at Coppin State. What he has to say to his players is respected and it has shown in the culture of winning he has cultivated at Morgan.

“When I tell them something, they know that I know what I’m talking about. … I give them my experiences and I try to make it simple for them. …let’s say it’s (runners on) first and second and we’re up by two runs. I’ll go out to the mound, I’ll go, ‘listen, I’m not worried about the runner at second base, if you can keep that runner from first base from getting around the diamond then we’re in good shape here’. I think, you know, making them realize that they’re just not robots out there, that they can think and they can do things really has helped.”

This season was also one for the history books as coach Hineline became Morgan’s all time winningest coach in a 17-0 demolition of University of Maryland Eastern Shore on April 16, 2023. Coach Hineline has been at the helm since the 2015 season and has revolutionized the Lady Bears, turning them into perennial MEAC Powerhouses in the eight seasons he’s had in charge.

Coach Hineline’s Record at Morgan

  • 2015: 8-30
  • 2016: 0-28
  • 2017: 23-23
  • 2018: 28-17*
  • 2019: 22-24
  • 2020: 5-11, COVID-19 shortened
  • 2021: 24-17, MEAC Tournament Champion, Made the NCAA Tournament *
  • 2022: 31-15 *
  • 2023: 24-19 *

* denotes MEAC Regular Season Title

The Lady Bears kick off MEAC Tournament play on May 10 in Norfolk, VA at the Norfolk State University Softball Field. Top-seeded Morgan State will play the winner of the UMES-NCCU game at 3 p.m.