The Morgan State Lady Bears softball team is back. After a long off-season and a preseason filled with distractions, it’s time to play ball.
“There is a lot going on, so much raw emotion going on,” said senior shortstop Danielle Pitpit. “What helps is that there is only three seniors this year. We have a strong group and having that sound foundation will definitely be a major point in our success this year. I think the biggest goal right now is being able to stay focused and being able to recognize what’s really important. We all want the ring, but we have to take it one game at a time.”
The Lady Bears 2017 season was one of most successful seasons in school history. They finished with a 23-23 (12-6 MEAC) record, but a loss to Bethune-Cookman in the opening round of the MEAC double-elimination tournament left a bad taste in their mouths.
But the team that relies heavily on the pitching of their ace, Amy Begg, along with newfound success batting, the Lady Bears could be title chasing in 2018.
But the team’s aspirations of a title were almost shattered before the first game of the 2018 season was played.
Morgan State’s athletic department was slapped with NCAA infractions for allowing 94 student-athletes to receive expenses while ineligible or not properly certified during the 2012-13 to 2015-16 academic years.
They were originally one of ten sports programs at Morgan who would be faced with a post-season ban. The initial punishments handed to Morgan athletics’ were appealed and the post-season ban of ten programs was reduced to three. Lady Bears softball remained one of the three.
There’s a case that could be made for another appeal being proposed specifically for the softball program, since the players on this year’s team were not a part of the 94 student-athletes who were involved in the infractions.
Whether or not the program sees the ban lifted, the players will still go out and compete.
“I think we decided as a team that it’s obviously out of our hands,” said senior pitcher Amy Begg. “We’re just gonna keep moving forward and just go into the season as if we were going to the post-season. We’re still aiming for that number one position and I think we’re gonna get there.”
The Lady Bears have 13 underclassmen, which is more than half of the team. With only three seniors leaving, they will have a lot of veterans that have played at least two and a half years at the collegiate level.
“It’s kind of tough for me because I transferred, so I don’t really don’t know where they (Morgan) left off last year. But with everything I see at practice and the past fall season, it looks like we are going to have a great year. We all have the same goal in mind and we push each other to get there. It’s nice to be a part of a team with a great atmosphere,” said pitcher Stephanie Rundlett.
Rundlett, a native of Maine, is a transfer sophomore from Fordham University, where she won an A10 Conference title with the Fordham Rams last year.
The Lady Bears will travel to Clermont, FL to kick off their regular season in the Dot Richardson Tournament, Feb 9 against the University of Toledo.
“Every time I talk to one of the girls they keep mentioning how excited they are to be in Florida. I’m excited to get out of this weather and go to Florida and play some ball,” said Begg.