Morgan State 2023 Softball Season Recap

The Morgan State Lady Bears Softball Team (24-21 Overall, 14-4 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) ended their season on May 11 with an 11-7 loss to the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (14-30 Overall, 8-10 MEAC).



2023 MEAC Softball tournament.

Alex Ederson, Co-Sports Editor

The underwhelming showing made by the Lady Bears in the MEAC Tournament does not erase all the hard work that they put in over the course of the season. This was a season where head coach Hineline became the all-time leader in career wins at Morgan, Morgan had the MEAC Pitcher of the Year and Player of the Year, and they won their third consecutive MEAC regular season title. It may not have ended how the Lady Bears wanted, but it was certainly one to be remembered. 

Elon Softball Classic

The season started off fairly shaky for the Lady Bears. They were still reeling from the losses to the Howard University Lady Bison in the MEAC tournament Championship Games the season prior. The Lady Bears had 11 players returning from the 2022 season and were the top dogs in the MEAC headed into 2023.

They opened the season at the Elon Softball Classic hosted by Elon University in Elon, North Carolina on Feb. 11. Invited to the tournament were Morgan State, North Carolina A&T State University, University of Southern Indiana, and Winthrop University with Elon hosting. Morgan lost their opening game against Winthrop, 2-4.

The Lady Bears bounced back in their next two games, also on Feb. 11, beating Elon, 5-1. Junior pitcher Emily Raubach (1-6, 43 IP/ 3.42 ERA /1.30 WHIP/ 29 K’s ) recorded the first win of the season for the Lady Bears. Morgan would follow that up with an 8-3 rout of NCAT. 

The team had seemed to find their footing within the tournament but unfortunately, the final two games against USI and Winthrop were canceled due to concerns over inclement weather.

Morgan (2-1) used the Elon Classic as a warmup for the season ahead and their fledgling season was not getting any easier. The Lady Bears had four more tournaments to play in before they started conference play in the MEAC.

Houston Classic

On Feb. 17, the Lady Bears traveled to Houston to begin play in the Houston Classic. The tournament took place from Feb. 17-19 and this would be Morgan’s hardest test of the season so far, as they would play #12/#14 University of Washington, University of Houston, and Hofstra University.  

The Lady Bears opened the tournament with a 2-1 win over Hofstra in 10 innings, with senior outfielder Deborah Hamilton (.270/.333/.365, 1 HR, 9 RBI) hitting the game-winning RBI single in the top of the tenth inning. Junior pitcher Anaya Hunte, reigning MEAC Pitcher of the Year (15-9, .300/.367/.429, 8 RBI) pitched the full 10 innings, striking out three and allowing one run on six hits. The Lady Bears started the Houston Classic strong but would be hampered by their next run of results.

The Lady Bears seemed to be struggling on the mound whenever Hunte didn’t pitch, but they also just happened to be up against elite competition. Raubach started the next game against Houston, pitching three innings and allowing a run on 4 hits with two strikeouts. 

Senior Melissa Paz (0-1, 2.75/.481/.363,19 RBI) came in as relief during the bottom of the fourth and had an outing to forget. Paz allowed four runs on five hits with zero strikeouts in her 1.1 innings of service. Junior Utility Sarah Tuzunzki (0-0, .159/.362/.205, 4 HR, 9 RBI) replaced Paz in the bottom of the fifth and saw out the game, allowing no hits, and no runs with two strikeouts.

After the 2-1 win over Hofstra, the Lady Bears team then went on a three-game losing streak, losing 0-5 to Houston, 0-12 to UW, and 2-5 to Houston. The Houston Classic ended with a 9-7 come-from-behind win over Hofstra, giving the Lady Bears (4-4) something to hold on to as they moved on to their next tournament: the Liberty Classic.

Liberty Classic

The Liberty Classic occurred from Feb. 24-26 in Lynchburg, Va. Invited were Northern Illinois University, Marshall University, Princeton University, Elon, and Morgan. Morgan opened play on Feb. 24, with an 11-0 loss to Marshall in five innings.  Marshall scored 11 runs in the opening three innings before adding insult to injury and run-ruling Morgan. 

The National Collegiate Athletics Association states in their playing rules for softball, if one team is up by eight or more runs after five or more equal innings, the plate umpire may declare the run-ahead rule. 

The Lady Bears would return to action that same day against Princeton and faced another onslaught. Princeton would “rule rule” Morgan in six innings and end the Lady Bears’ time in Lynchburg. Morgan (3-6) was struggling in tournaments against top-level opponents and this would be a theme for the rest of the season.

MSU Tournament

The Lady Bears had been playing the first month of the season completely on the road, and they would see their first taste of action at Lois T. Murray Stadium during their home tournament. The Morgan State Tournament lasted from March 4 to 5 and would be the first time Morgan State fans would get to see the Lady Bears in action,

Invited to the tournament were Fairleigh Dickinson University and University of Maryland Baltimore but UMBC pulled out so Bryant University took their place. The Lady Bears struggled in their first two home games, losing 2-3 and 4-6 to FDU on the opening day of play, however, Hunte would set the season high for strikeouts with 10 in the 2-3 defeat.

The Lady Bears bounced back in a big way, as they played FDU for a third time on March 5 and won 2-0. Senior pitcher and infielder Victoria Fletcher (9-5, 70 IP, 2.20 ERA,1.19 WHIP, 42 K’s  .345/.383/.561, 7 HR, 43 RBI) led the way with a personal season-high seven strikeouts over 7 innings, as well as pitching a complete game and earning her first shutout of the season. Fletcher, a transfer the season prior, gave the Lady Bears an added threat on offense as well as in the rotation.

The Lady Bears ended their home tournament with a 5-3 win over Bryant, with Hunte putting in a dominating two-way performance. She went 2-3 with an RBI triple as well as pitching the full seven innings and allowing two runs on five hits with nine strikeouts. She also scored a run on an RBI single from Paz. This showed more or less what was to come for Hunte and the Lady Bears.

Retriever Classic

The Lady Bears (6-8) had one last tournament before they started MEAC Conference play. They were invited alongside Merrimack College and Cornell University to the Retriever Classic hosted by UMBC from March 10-12. Morgan looked to keep their winning streak alive as they played their penultimate games before MEAC play.

Hunte was given the first start of the tournament and she did not disappoint, displaying the poise on the mound that made her Coach Hineline’s “ace”. The Lady Bears routed Cornell, 7-1 and she nearly threw her first shutout of the season if it weren’t for an error made that allowed a Cornell player to score. Regardless of the fluke score, Hunte threw six scoreless frames and recorded eight strikeouts while only allowing two hits.

The Lady Bears’ bats also were hot as they recorded 12 hits in the game. Hamilton led the team with a game-high three hits, while senior outfielder Asia Thomas (.225/.327/.319, 3 HR, 13 RBI) homered and drove in a team-high two runs. Junior infielders Mia Ewell and Paz also contributed an RBI apiece. 

The hot bats carried over into their following game as they hammered Merrimack 12-4, winning in five innings. Freshman outfielder Nia Lewis (.346/.369/.370, 3 RBI) led the way in hits, going 3-3 and scoring twice. Fletcher drove in three runs on the outing and was given the start on the mound. She put in an outing to forget on the mound as she allowed two runs through three innings, striking out two, and throwing a wild pitch which led to Merrimack scoring. 

She was replaced on the mound by Raubach who saw the game out, allowing no runs with four strikeouts in two innings. Merrimack scored twice more through Morgan’s errors, but by that point, the game was well out of reach. However, the errors were something that would haunt Morgan all season.

The winning streak would eventually end at four in a row for the Lady Bears. They lost their next game 1-6 to UMBC before beating Cornell again, this time by a score of 3-1. Morgan closed out the Retriever Classic with a loss to UMBC which saw the Lady Bears lose, 8-10

Morgan led the game 6-1 until the bottom of the fifth, where UMBC would go on a tear, scoring nine runs in two innings. The Lady Bears chipped in two consolidation runs in the seventh but by that time the damage was done and UMBC had completed their 5-run comeback.

The Lady Bears (9-10) had one last non-conference matchup prior to MEAC play, this game was played against George Washington University on March 15 in Washington, D.C.  Morgan lost 2-6, after leading 2-0 for the first 2.5 innings. The duo of Hunte and Fletcher were unable to control the bats of GWU and gave up six runs on six hits.

MEAC Conference and Tournament

MEAC play began with a three-game series against Coppin State University.  Morgan started off in a dominant showing as Hunte threw a perfect game on March 18 in the opener against Coppin. She tossed seven scoreless frames and struck out seven, as the reigning MEAC Pitcher of the Year reintroduced herself to the conference in a big way. 

The Lady Bears (12-11) would sweep Coppin in their opening series in MEAC play, winning 3-0, 9-1 (5 innings), and 8-0 (6 innings). Fletcher had a series to remember, batting .500 while collecting eight RBI’s including a grand slam in Morgan’s 9-1 win.

Morgan (24-21) would go 14-4 in MEAC Conference play, earning their third straight regular-season MEAC title along the way.

On April 16, coach Larry Hineline would etch his name in the Morgan history books as he became the program’s all-time winningest coach. This happened in a 17-0 shellacking of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore in Salisbury, Maryland.

Prior to that historic win, Morgan had dropped four games in a row and needed to get back to winning ways if they wanted to challenge for the MEAC Title. The Lady Bears came to play for Coach Larry, as they call him; they put on a show for the traveling fans. 

The Lady Bears combined for 17 runs on 11 hits, ending the game in five innings. Paz had a team-high four RBIs, and Fletcher followed close behind with three. Hunte put in another shutout, allowing four hits and striking out two.

The Lady Bears ended the season with four straight wins and looked to carry that regular season momentum into the MEAC Tournament. They dominated the MEAC and it showed at the yearly awards. They cleaned up at the MEAC Season awards; Hunte won her second MEAC Pitcher of the Year award and Fletcher won the coveted MEAC Player of the Year. 

This marked the first time that Morgan State had both the MEAC’s player and pitcher of the year in the same season. Fletcher ranked in the top 10 in the conference in hits (3rd; 48) at-bats (4th; 139), slugging (4th; .561), OPS (6th; .944), home runs (5th; 7) and batting average (9th; .345)

Hunte was top 5 in the MEAC in ERA (2nd; 2.22), opponent batting average (2nd; .228), innings pitched (3rd; 157.2), strikeouts (1st; 137), batters struck out looking (1st; 33), wins (2nd; 15) and saves (1st; 3). This season, she recorded her and Morgan’s second-ever perfect game on March 18 at Coppin State and pitched the third no-hitter of her career in a matchup at Norfolk State on March 25.

Morgan also has four members included in All-MEAC teams:

First Team All-MEAC

  • Pitcher Anaya Hunte
  • Utility Melissa Paz 

Second Team All-MEAC

  • Infielder Victoria Fletcher

Third Team All-MEAC

  • Pitcher Victoria Fletcher
  • Outfielder Nia Lewis

The Lady Bears’ season ended in dramatic fashion as they lost back-to-back games in the MEAC Tournament. Morgan was looking to add to their trophy case and collect the school’s second-ever tournament title. The Lady Bears lost 2-1 to Coppin and 11-7 to UMES. The game against UMES was a tragic way to end an amazing season for the Lady Bears as they committed a season-high 10 errors, on the way to ending their season.

This was a season full of highs and lows for the Lady Bears and ended in a way no one wanted to endure but it is something that the team will continue to learn from under coach Hineline. The Lady Bears will have 13/18 players returning for the 2024 season, including 5/9 starters. The lessons learned from the 2023 season will guide Morgan forward into 2024.