SANGER — Chemistry on the Sanger softball team runs deep, and the Lady Indians’ most potent slugger, junior shortstop Morgan Turkoly, has embraced her leadership role on a freshman-laden squad and earned the respect of her teammates with her commitment and work ethic.
Coach Jae McMinn sees Turkoly’s passion for the game and dedication to improvement every day as she is the last one to leave the field after practice, always staying behind to get in more swings.
“I have to leave the gate open so I can go home and she’s out here hitting every day,” McMinn said. “That’s why she hits the way she does. She’s a very special player. I’ve got a lot of special players, but she sets the tone for the team. She’s going to be very successful in her next journey.”
The bond between this year’s 28-9 Lady Indians is one that McMinn says is unprecedented in her 11 years at Sanger, and she said it has given her confidence in this team’s ability to perform.
“They care about each other and they play for each other,” McMinn said. “It’s chemistry, because if you’re not playing for your teammate, you’re not going to be successful. It’s a team sport. They have a lot of fun. They help each other out on and off the field. What more could you ask for? Morgan’s a leader, but I’ve got several of them on the team. It’s all of them working together. We’re a team, and it’s going to be a team that wins it.”
With an outflow of seniors last season leading to a young squad this year, McMinn said it has been the desire of the younger players that has contributed to the upperclassmen’s confidence and the team’s overall success.
“It’s a totally different team,” McMinn said. “Last year I had a bunch of seniors, and this year I have a bunch of freshmen. I think their desire to do well helps out the upperclassmen.”
In Sanger’s 12-inning 3-2 triumph over Frisco Lone Star to win a Class 3A regional quarterfinal playoff series last weekend, the Lady Indians’ team chemistry was put to the test as the Rangers intentionally walked Turkoly several times.
“It’s never fun to be intentionally walked but it’s part of the game, so I guess you just have to go with it,” said Turkoly, who leads the Lady Indians with five home runs in the playoffs. “I know my team has my back throughout the lineup. It was intense and exciting. It was stressful, but at the same time I knew we were going to pull through because one through nine we have great hitters that can come through in big situations.”
Jaycee Garza’s RBI double gave the Lady Indians the win, but the question of where to best utilize Turkoly is giving McMinn some tough decisions for the best-of-three regional semifinal series against Atlanta that begins today in Sulphur Springs.
“It’s really frustrating, and before that game I had toyed around with moving her around in the lineup — possibly at the top so if they walk her we’ve got a runner at first with no outs,” McMinn said. “The girls are going to have to step up if I leave her where she’s at. The No. 2 spot needs to bunt and run and also hit for power.”
After falling to Bonham in the first game of their area-round series, Turkoly and the Lady Indians learned a valuable lesson in starting a series on the right note.
“It was definitely a wakeup,” Turkoly said. “We were pretty fired up after that. We knew we had to prove something the last two games, probably to ourselves. We have to start strong, and I think we’ll close it out well.”
Turkoly said she thinks Sanger is capable of making it to the state tournament.
“I think always the main goal is to win state, but we’re just going to take it one game at a time and see how it goes,” Turkoly said. “I think our team chemistry is the best since I’ve been in the program. We have meshed since the beginning, and I think this is the team to do it if there ever was one. ”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873 and via Twitter at @PatrickHayslip.