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North-South softball: Hutchison provides South with burst of speed

By Kasey Hickman

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The North-South All-Star Softball game scheduled for today will be no stranger to South Coach Greg Garber, but Lincoln County centerfielder Morgan Hutchison figures to be a big component in her final high school event.

"I've never had the opportunity to play in anything like the North-South game," Hutchinson said. "But I know these girls are extremely talented and together we're unstoppable."

The South roster is loaded with many of the best players in the state, but Hutchinson's name is one that hasn't frequently been seen in headlines throughout her career. Panther pitchers Brooke West and Amber Huffman have gained most of the attention given the program since it won the 2011 Class AAA state title.

Still, she ended her high school career as Lincoln County's all-time hits leader and was named an All-State outfielder by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.

Hutchison set a new school record as a senior with a .533 batting average and an on-base percentage of .587.

Even with her skills at the plate, Garber said her most important role in today's three-game series that begins at 1 p.m. at Buffalo High School will be in center.

"Considering the roster we have, most of these girls don't have permanent positions," said Garber, St. Albans' veteran coach. "Morgan Hutchison was the only outfielder who was declared a definite positioner, so I want to take advantage of that.

"She also has a lot of speed that I plan on utilizing. She can drag bunt and hit, and she sure does move down the line. But we have such a combination of speed, like (Cabell Midland third baseman) Morgan Zerkle and (Wayne shortstop) Jessica Watts, that the big hitters are going to show Hutchinson off on the bases."

Hutchison led the Panthers with six triples and hit her first high school home run as Coach Rod Hoover's team finished 23-8. They were the only team to beat Class AAA state champion Hurricane during the Redskins' postseason run to their first state title. Hurricane won the Region 4, Section 3 championship over Lincoln County by winning a deciding Game 3 of a best-of-three series at Hurricane.

"I just get on base. I love the feeling of being on the field," Hutchison said.

Although this will be the last time she plays, Hutchison said she still had to work incredibly hard this week in preparation for the series.

"Coach Garber is a good coach. I've never been worked so hard and he's intense. I am excited for this experience, because it will be my last," Hutchinson said.

"I've had knee injuries and have continued to play on them. I'd love to play college ball but my knees won't allow me to do so."

Though her knees will prohibit her from playing in the future her drive to play softball saved her a spot on the all-star roster. But her spot was almost taken from her when Coach Garber first heard from her.

"She told me she couldn't make the first practice, so I said you can't play," Garber said. "She immediately changed her mind and was at practice. She wants to be on the field, so I'd love to put her out there."

Hutchison will play centerfield for the majority of the games, but Garber ensures fans might see some very unfamiliar position changes.

Hurricane centerfielder Nicole Pierson is also on the roster, but injured her foot Tuesday and will miss the game.

"Most of these girls can play many positions, so we will have some pitchers and catchers in the outfield, and moving other girls to places they aren't used to," Garber said. "But that's why we practice and push their talent. They're all-stars."


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