Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Morgan Lashley Steps Into Justin's World

Of the three military academies in Division I athletics, West Point and the Army is the only one that sponsors softball. Part of the Patriot League, they've made it to the Regional round just once in their softball history.

In 2012, a freshman pitcher from North Carolina took the circle for the Black Knights and blew spectators away. In two seasons with the program, this player won sixty-two games, the all-time program wins record and a mark that still stands. She recorded a 2.33 ERA during her time there, earning league Pitcher of the Year honors and an all-region selection.

This player was Morgan Lashley.

After her record-setting two years at West Point, Lashley transferred to Northeastern historical powerhouse Hofstra, where she played under the legendary Bill Edwards during his final season in the coaches box. Once she joined the Pride, Lashley's dominant feats continued, to the tune of a 2.39 ERA and seventeen victories with 161 strikeouts in her inaugural season in the Colonial Athletic Association. For her efforts, she was named to the all-region second-team and was picked to the all-conference team.

In her senior campaign, Lashley once again earned all-region honors and was named to the Eastern College Athletic Conference Division I Softball All-Star Second Team.

Justin’s World: How did you get started playing softball?
Morgan Lashley: I was about four and a half when I started playing tee ball and I was the only girl on my team. I would run all over the field and push the boys out of the way to make the plays. My mom said right then was when she knew I needed to get into softball!

Justin’s World: What led you to Army as your place to go to school and play ball, as well as your original career choice?
Morgan Lashley: West Point is a great education and sets you up for success throughout the rest of your life. I wanted to be successful in life and not just through softball for four years, so I thought it would be a great place to attend as well as get the opportunity to serve my country.

Justin’s World: Do you have familial history in the armed forces?
Morgan Lashley: My grandfather was in the Air Force but I had no influences that wanted me to go to West Point.

Justin’s World: Tell me about juggling all that comes with attending a school like Army, where there are even more commitments than your ordinary college, and playing a D1 sport at such a highly-successful level.
Morgan Lashley: It is a great learning experience to attend the Academy. I was taught discipline, punctuality, and just respect for everything, not just elderly people. The academics were extremely tough and softball always came second, no matter what the circumstances. I grew as a leader and a young woman in the short two years at West Point and definitely would not be the person I am today without attending the Academy.

Justin’s World: When choosing a new school, what led you to Hofstra?
Morgan Lashley: My reasoning for leaving West Point was due to my interests in the business world. Upon graduation at West Point, you must serve for 8 years in the Army and I wanted to enter the business world immediately (or so I thought). Hofstra has an amazing business school and is extremely close to New York City, which is great for post-graduation. Their softball program is outstanding and I wanted to continue to grow as a pitcher. Larissa Anderson and Bill Edwards were going to make that happen so I joined the Hofstra Pride not even a month after leaving West Point

Justin’s World: What is your favorite award, record, or honor from your career thus far or, on another hand, the one you’re most proud of?
Morgan Lashley: My favorite honor of my career is definitely winning the [CAA conference title] last year against JMU. The Hofstra team last year was something I have never experienced before. We were tighter than tight; you can imagine 18 girls surrounded by each other all the time could cause for some ruckus, but not this team. We were with each other at all times and only got stronger as the season went on. I don’t know if I will ever be lucky enough to be a part of a team like the 2015 Hofstra team, but those girls will forever have a place in my heart and I wouldn’t trade that season or any of those girls for the world.

Justin’s World: You got to play for the legendary Bill Edwards in his last season at the helm of the Pride. Tell me about playing for him and what being under his tutelage taught you.
Morgan Lashley: Ohhh Coach Edwards… what a guy. He is extremely knowledgeable about softball and just sports in general. A true legend, and it was an honor to get to be coached by him. He taught me things I didn’t even know I did wrong and he taught me more than just on the field. At practice sometimes, I was just mind-blown at how much he knew and how much he saw happening on the field. He knew exactly how to get under my skin and push me to levels I never knew were possible. A selfless person who would do anything for any of his players and I am grateful to get to learn from what I honestly think is the best of the best.

Justin’s World: From the unique perspective of a rival who played them several times over the last two seasons, give me your thoughts on the James Madison Dukes.
Morgan Lashley: James Madison is a great program and continues to get better each and every year. Their players are so into the games and clearly work their butts off during the off- season. When the JMU [vs. Hofstra] series is coming up, you can feel the energy at practice and the fire in everyone’s stomach. It’s a true rivalry and every single player must be playing their best on both sides to come out on top. James Madison is the best part of the season and they make you better every time you play them.

Justin’s World: Was playing pro ball – either domestically or internationally – something that entered the equation as a possibility or something you’d like to pursue if able?
Morgan Lashley: I was offered to play professional ball in Adelaide, Australia from October 2015 to April 2016. It was an honor and after regionals of the 2015 season, I had thought softball was over for me. I was very lucky to get to continue my career and the one thing I truly love. About a month before I was scheduled to leave for Australia, I was with Larissa Anderson doing a pitching workout and I landed very strange; my land leg was straight, but my knee kept moving toward the plate. I collapsed and was helped off the field and put on crutches immediately. My knee was about the size of a cantaloupe and I was just praying for a sprained ligament. I went to the doctor the very next morning and by 2pm I had gotten an MRI and been told that I had completely torn my ACL and was going to need reconstruction surgery three weeks later. It was probably the most devastating thing that has ever happened to me and something that has forever changed my life.

Justin’s World: What are your plans for the future, both involved with the game and outside of it? Is your plan to get back on the field in uniform, or maybe as a coach?
Morgan Lashley: My plans are to continue to rehab and hopefully return to the field and play again. Australia is still on the table for next season, as long as I can return to pitching after surgery. I am currently coaching a high school team on Long Island and loving every second. I used to believe I was supposed to enter the business world but upon graduation, it seems like I cannot get myself away from the sport that has been my life… and I’m not complaining!

Justin’s World: When your time w/ softball is done, whenever that may be, what do you hope is the legacy that you’ve left behind on the game? The thing that people remember about you in twenty or thirty years?
Morgan Lashley: The legacy I want others to remember me by is as a competitor. A girl who was told her entire life that she was too small to make anything of herself at the highest level, but with determination and a lot of hard work, she proved everyone wrong. I want to inspire young girls who are in the position I was, those that may be smaller than other girls on their team or may not be as strong, to never give up on themselves or their dreams. No dream is too big. You have to dig deep down inside and refuse to listen to all the negative comments and believe. A young girl must truly believe she is the best on the field and work twice as hard as anyone she faces in order to succeed. I want to teach girls that it doesn’t matter your size, just the size of your heart.

Justin’s World: If you could pass along a single piece of advice to the next generation of collegiate players, what would you tell them?
Morgan Lashley: Since going through this injury, surgery, and rehab process, my perspective on sports and life in general has completely changed. If I could give one thing to upcoming collegiate players, it wouldn’t be talent, speed, strength, or anything in that realm. It would be to know what it feels like to have their dreams and the game completely stripped from them. Players say day in and day out that they give 100%, but there is more deep down inside to give. Once the game has been taken from you in the blink of an eye, you can feel all the extra energy you had to give and you’d give anything to get back to playing. I don’t want any player to ever take the game for granted because it can be taken in a matter of seconds without your permission. I miss playing more than anything in my life. When you have a bad day, a nice game of catch and throw makes all your problems go away. When you step on the field at practice or a game, everything else going on in life just goes away for those couple hours. Don’t take that for granted.

Justin’s World: And, to close, my favorite question: Imagine that you are stranded on a deserted island for an undetermined period of time, but you can take any three things with you. Anything tangible, outside of boats and phones, goes. What would you take?
Morgan Lashley: Hmmm three things:

          1) Knife
          2) Dog
          3) Big box of matches

For the record, I wanted to say an unlimited supply of mac & cheese, but I thought that wouldn’t really help me survive. *laughs* 

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