BY GARY HAWKINS
If not for the twinge Sonja Morse felt in her right shoulder during warmups for a tournament game this spring, she and her Cony High School teammates may have won their second straight Class A state softball championship. It came as she prepared to pitch a quarterfinal game against Bangor.
“It was the last pitch of my warmups,” Morse said. “I felt a little pop and I said ‘oh, what’s that?’ It surprised me because I’m usually a healthy person.”
The Rams went on to lose 6-4, ending their hopes for a repeat. A healthy Morse may have won, but the senior pitcher/shortstop isn’t dwelling on it.
“I thought it was a great season,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting to go for the state championship again, but as the season progressed, I was confident.”
Shortly after the loss, Morse was named Maine Gatorade Softball Player of the Year. She finished the regular season 11-0 with a 0.58 earned run average with 130 strikeouts in 63 1/3 innings. She also batted .549 with a team-leading six home runs and 26 RBIs. For her efforts, Morse has been named the Kennebec Journal Girls Softball Player of the Year. Gardiner’s Taylor Banister and Cony’s Arika Brochu were also considered.
Morse had some swelling in her shoulder blades after her injury that has since subsided. She pitched in a tournament in Connecticut for the Portland-based Edge Academy last weekend. This summer she’s getting ready to play for UMass-Lowell, a Division I program which has awarded her a partial scholarship. She’s spoken to head coach Sean Cotter about her role next season.
“I’ll be the No. 2 pitcher, basically,” she said. “We’ll switch off and on. He said he might put me in the lineup also which would be awesome.”
The loss to Bangor was the first of Morse’s career at Cony where she went 24-1. She transferred after two years at Erskine where she starred on the mound and followed in her older sister, Samantha’s, footsteps.
“She was my role model growing up,” Morse said. “I just wanted to be like her. That drove me to be the pitcher I am today.”
Morse batted .479 with three homers her junior year and pitched a one-hitter in the state championship game. She was even better this year.
“She hit for power more,” Cony coach Rocky Gaslin said. “Unfortunately, she got hurt in the last playoff game. She’s a competitor on the mound. She’s mentally tough and she wanted to be a good player.”
Morse’s out-pitch was her rise ball, a pitch she said doesn’t actually rise but finishes high in the strike zone.
“I love my rise ball,” she said. “With two strikes on the batter they always swing at the high one. I read where it doesn’t actually rise, it’s basically the illusion.”
Morse also throws a changeup, fastball and screwball and knows how to work the strike zone.
“She could put it just about anywhere inside or outside,” Gaslin said. “Her best pitch was on the inside. Most kids have a hard time hitting a 60-plus mile per hour pitch. She’s especially strong in the lower body, that’s why she can throw so hard.”
Morse hopes to touch 65 mph by the end of next year and Gaslin believes she’ll reach that goal.
Gary Hawkins — 621-5638