Lynnwood senior Maddie Morgan is The Herald’s 2017 Softball Player of the Year. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Lynnwood’s Morgan is The Herald’s Softball Player of the Year

BOTHELL — With a record-breaking freshman campaign three years ago, Maddie Morgan set an incredibly high bar for herself to top.

Yet each passing spring, the Lynnwood softball standout cleared it — and then raised it even higher.

After committing to softball powerhouse University of Alabama as a ninth grader, Morgan set the Lynnwood program record with a .589 batting average in her first high-school season. She then proceeded to break her own record as a sophomore (.657), and did so again as a junior (.708).

And in her final season with the Royals this spring, the lefty-hitting shortstop capped her sensational Lynnwood career with her best showing yet.

Morgan posted a .712 batting average, breaking the school record for a fourth time. She complemented that with a .783 on-base percentage and 1.384 slugging percentage. And she smashed five home runs, two triples and 16 doubles — finishing with 23 extra-base hits in 52 at-bats.

For her spectacular season, Morgan is The Herald’s 2017 Softball Player of the Year.

“She’s absolutely phenomenal,” Lynnwood coach Sara Hall said. “You can see from all the numbers. I’ve never seen somebody like her. Her career at Lynnwood has just blown my mind and everybody else’s. We’re just so proud of her.”

Among the most impressive of her video-game-like stats: Morgan struck out only once this spring and just three times combined over the last three seasons.

“To watch her bat is really phenomenal,” Hall said. “She is so smart. She’s such a thinking player. She sees every pitch as it leaves the pitcher’s hand and knows if it’s a ball or a strike. She just has the best eye and this strong, beautiful swing. … It’s a thing of beauty. It’s so consistent, so fluid.”

But as her coach said, that textbook swing is a product of Morgan’s tireless work ethic.

“It’s from years and years and hours and hours of practice,” Hall said. “This girl has had a goal since she was a little kid. She has put in so much work that a lot of people don’t even know about. … She has worked her tail off. That’s what’s made her.”

In addition to being an exceptional hitter, Morgan is a talented and versatile infielder who played third base her first two seasons with the Royals before moving to shortstop.

“She’ll just do these sliding, skidding dives, and pop up and still make phenomenal throws,” Hall said. “Some of my favorites are if she’s coming in hard for a short grounder. She’ll leap and twist to make a throw to (first base). And it’s like, ‘Are we in a Nike ad? Like, how did you do that with your body?’”

Long a softball phenom, Morgan was playing on an elite 18-and-under club team by age 14 — around the time she began drawing considerable college interest. She said facing older competition helped her develop into the player she is today.

“It made me work harder, because I saw so many athletes that are better and stronger, and I wanted to be just like them,” Morgan said. “It’s been so beneficial to me.”

Despite Morgan’s extraordinary play, Lynnwood endured its second consecutive losing season with a 5-17 campaign this spring. But Hall said one never would have known that from watching Morgan’s effort and intensity.

“She persevered through a really tough season,” Hall said. “We only won (five) games, but she came out here every day fighting like we were the number-one team in the state. … It’s really inspiring.”

With her high-school career complete, Morgan now turns her attention to a busy summer with her club team that includes major tournaments in Chicago, New Jersey, Colorado, California and Oregon.

After that, she will head south in August to join the Alabama program, a perennial softball power that’s earned 11 trips to the Women’s College World Series since 2000. Morgan said she is thrilled for the opportunity and that the school felt “like a home” ever since she first stepped on campus three years ago during an unofficial visit.

“The traditions, the culture, the atmosphere — everything about Alabama was me,” Morgan said. “And I just feel like it’s the perfect place for me and my family, even though it’s so far away.

“It’s just so humbling,” she added. “I’m so happy to represent the school and also my family, my community and Lynnwood High School.”

Hall said she has no doubt that Morgan will succeed at Alabama. She said that while Morgan’s “skill level is obviously there,” it’s the mental side of her game and the willingness to put in the extra work that separate Morgan from the norm.

Hall points to a conversation she had with her star slugger earlier this month about the talented pitching in the recent Women’s College World Series. Morgan’s response was that she couldn’t wait to begin studying college hurlers, their pitches and their patterns.

“That’s why she is who she is, because she’s excited about putting in that kind of time,” Hall said.

Yet as dazzling as Morgan is on the diamond, it was her character and humility that drew Hall’s most effusive praise.

“She doesn’t see herself the way everybody else does, which makes her stand out even more,” said Hall, who is a teacher at Lynnwood and has had Morgan in class. “She’s so humble and just the most likable kid. She’s just a kind, gentle, welcoming individual.

“She’s a very well-rounded young girl that I truly hope my kids could be like some day,” Hall added. “She’s really special.”

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