Morghyn Ross celebrates a last out with a smile. Char Stone photo.
By JOHN ANDERSON
As Morghyn Ross talks about game preparation for a catcher, what she notices watching NCAA softball on television, you start to wonder if she is a college coach or runs a catching academy.
As soon as she is done talking, she has homework to finish.
After all, she’s a freshman at Friendship Central School.
Today at 1 p.m., the varsity catcher since 7th grade will be the calming influence, Captain Morghyn if you will, as Friendship-Scio is back in the state final four taking on Poland at 1 p.m.
Her sister, Nevaeh, a junior, is the pitcher who has brought Friendship-Scio to the promised land, but make no mistake, the younger sister has put in twice the work expected of a catcher.
Most elite high school pitchers are throwing year-round, every other day, into a net in the garage or basement. They may get dad or mom to sit on a bucket. Nevaeh has her varsity catcher down the hall at her house.
“I’m glad I get to catch Nevaeh in the off season,” Morghyn said, then with a laugh says, “well, there are some days I’m not!”
On the “not” days, Nevaeh throws to a net, bruises up her dad, Darryl Ross, who is an assistant coach with the team, or throws to her pitching coach, Dave Sylvester.
But on almost all of those occasions, Morghyn is there to watch and learn. It has paid off this season for the 21-1 Friendship-Scio team.
“Being able to work year-round with the varsity pitcher, I would say it definitely gives me an advantage,” Morghyn said. “I can tell when she’s having an off day. On certain pitches, I can tell her the adjustments she has to make because I listen to her pitching coach when she is at lessons.”
It wasn’t always that easy.
“As a starting catcher in 7th grade, it was pretty nerve-racking,” she admits. “But I got the hang of it.”
Morghyn also works on receiving and blocking in the family garage. Inside, she is watching television. Softball that is.
“I watch college softball to see how those catchers move around and stay mobile,” Morghyn said.
As Nevaeh has earned the headlines, and rightfully so, you would think Morghyn would want to follow in her footsteps as a pitcher. In a way, she is.
“Nevaeh used to catch before she pitched and I thought it looked fun and I wanted to do that,” she said.
At the plate, Morghyn is having an upperclassman season, hitting .510 with five doubles and four triples. She has driven in 21 runs and is a base stealing threat. She has also gunned down 12 runners trying to steal.
“I spent the most time in the off-season on hitting,” she said. “It’s 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical.”
And it’s not just her. The entire Friendship-Scio roster has seen an increase in batting averages and quality at bats.
“Carrying over to this year, we said we were going to have a better mindset,” Morghyn said. “Everyone was just happy to be going to states last year (Friendship-Scio lost to defending state champion Deposit-Hancock in the semifinals). We didn’t have the drive, we were happy to be in that game. We were hoping we would win. I think we have more confidence this year. We are confident and not cocky.
“It’s a lot of fun in the post-season. I have the right mindset, I know I can perform and it’s an easy feeling and a lot of fun,” she continued. “I think when we lost to Bolivar-Richburg last year, we knew it would not be a cake walk each game. I think everyone started to realize each game won’t be a free win. The entire team is driven and work hard toward their goal.”
They are also enjoying to see the hard work pay off. When senior Kiara Grover blasted a home run in the playoffs, it was another big moment.
“When Kiara hit that, we all erupt in the dugout,” Morghyn said. “We are so happy for each other when we have those moments. The other difference is, when someone scores on us, we do not put our heads down anymore.”
Then there are the crowds. The crowds are huge for a game. And when neighboring Class C Bolivar-Richburg plays, you could sell tickets. The two programs have pushed each other and the Friendship-Scio players have always respected that program.
“Softball is a staple in Friendship, everybody comes to watch, it’s what we are known for,” Morghyn said. “The Bolivar-Richburg games are so hyped up, everyone has the drive to win. When we finally beat them this year, we were super-relieved because our hard work paid off.”
After the Friendship-Scio game at 1 p.m., Wellsville plays at 4 p.m. in the Class B semi finals.
“I know some players from Wellsville, Ayla Faulkner, Averee Palmatier and McKenna Dunbar … we played travel ball together with Olean Synergy,” she said. “So this is another positive thing because we love to support each other.”
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