Five games into the season, Corbin Morgan had just one hit to his name and a .140 average.
While some would call it an early-season slump, things can change in hurry.
On April Fool's day, the New Covenant junior was anything but at the plate, posting a 3-for-4 outing to break out in a big way. After a strikeout his first time up at bat, Morgan responded with fourth-inning double that drove in two runs and helped the Warriors claim a 7-3 victory.
"Coach was just sitting there," Morgan said. "He's really encouraging and told me 'you've just got to get in there and keep your head focused,' so I was just ready to go up there and be, like, the first strike I see I'm swinging at."
Morgan's double propelled New Covenant to a 3-0 lead and, more importantly, gave starting pitcher Cody Malan room to breathe.
The senior right-hander worked six innings and tallied eight strikeouts for the Warriors. Armed with a somewhat violent, over-the-top delivery and a game-face scowl that would make Roger Clemens seem cordial in comparison, Morgan definitely showcases a competitive fire on the mound.
Despite the throwback delivery, New Covenant head coach John Hartley takes an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" stance with his ace.
"You know, you don't see that much anymore," Hartley said. "You used to see that back a little more, right over the top, that would have been a Dick Birmingham-type kid with a good 12-6 breaking ball, throwing the fastball right over the top. We really don't do that much anymore, and Cody came to us that way, and we're not going to tinker with him. He's got good velocity, good control and he's a horse out there … he carried us."
Up 7-3 heading into the bottom of the seventh inning, the Warriors had to hold off a final Walnut Grove rally.
A leadoff walk and back-to-back singles put runners on the base paths and threaten an extra-inning comeback; however, the Tiger bats were unable to move them across the plate.
Despite the loss, bright spots continue to emerge for Walnut Grove. After the basketball team's deep, postseason run ate into early-season practice time, the Tigers are slowly rounding into form.
Head coach Zeb Wallace lamented his team's offensive struggles, while playing the long view in a young season. Walnut Grove's deep staff of quality pitching arms should be more than capable of holding the line while the bats come around.
"We're not a team that's going to make excuses," Wallace said. "Our bats are kind of lagging behind, somewhat, but we're playing some pretty good ball right now. We're very deep pitching-wise, and our bats are good enough, when right, to beat anybody any night with any pitcher on the bump. Kyle Keith pitched good enough to win tonight. We just didn't hit good enough to win."
New Covenant (5-1) hosts Bradleyville on Monday, while Walnut Grove (1-4) kicks off the Wheatland tournament that same day against Hermitage.
New Covenant – 7, Walnut Grove – 3
New Covenant 1 0 0 2 1 0 3 — 7
Walnut Grove 0 0 0 2 0 1 0 — 3