For most of the last four years, Morgan Noad has made it look so easy while starring for the Coastal Carolina softball team and putting up numbers unmatched in program history.
But she’s never forgotten the way this all started, and that’s what has made all of the stats and accolades all the more satisfying for her.
“I started off my freshman year so poor and I’ve come so far with my offense and just being a player and a person, that’s what makes me happy when I think about my whole career,” she said. “ I just think about how far I’ve [come] and how I’ve grown as a player.”
Noad heads into her final Big South tournament, which starts Wednesday in Rock Hill for the No. 2-seeded Chanticleers, as the program and conference record-holder with 74 career home runs and 214 RBIs. She leads all Division I players with 22 homers this spring – matching her own program single-season record set last year – and she was named the Big South’s Player of the Year on Tuesday.
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And for what it’s worth, Coastal Carolina softball coach Kelley Green said she can’t imagine anyone ever breaking those school records at this point.
“I can’t imagine it. Hopefully we recruit someone that does do it, obviously we’d love to have that, but I don’t see it being broken,” she said. “You can say records are meant to be broken, but I think that’s going to be tough. Her being left-handed, power hitter, to produce at that type of consistency is going to be tough and I don’t think a right-handed hitter would be able to do it. Yeah, I don’t think it will ever be done.”
Said Noad, of possibly putting the home run record out of reach: “Well I hope so! I hope no one can catch it ever.”
As she also noted, though, she couldn’t have predicted any of this when she made her collegiate debut as a freshman. Nor could Green, for that matter.
It’s a good reminder for anyone, though, of what perseverance can produce.
Thrust into the starting lineup as a rookie due to the Chants’ pressing need at catcher, Noad found herself not only struggling with her defensive responsibilities – and hearing plenty about it from Green, who coaches the team’s catchers – but also struggling to establish herself with the bat, which was maybe a less expected hurdle.
“I was kind of thrown into the fire a little bit. I wasn’t ready, didn’t know signs. It was just a different ballgame, it was faster,” she recalled. “So I was struggling with catching, hitting. I was at the bottom of the lineup being flexed and just striking out all the time. It was like strikeout or home run, and then I think halfway through the season something clicked and I realized how bad I was or something and I turned it around.”
She remembers the turning point rather specifically, too. It was after the Chants played South Carolina during the middle of her first season
“I got flexed [out] for the first time and I think that just hit me so hard that, ‘Wow, I’m so bad I’m not even batting,’” Noad said. “And that kind of just switched [something]. I moved on from that and that was the turning point.”
Said Green: “Halfway through her freshman year something just clicked, and she just went on a tear and hasn’t stopped since. I think if you look at the first half of her freshman year I don’t know if she was even hitting .200, and then the second half of the season she just tore it up and wound up hitting 15 home runs that year, but only had a couple in the first half. And ever since then she’s never looked back.”
Noad punctuated that rookie season with a walk-off home run in the 2013 Big South semifinals against host Winthrop in Rock Hill, which just so happens to be where the Chants are headed this week with their season on the line.
At that point she truly felt she had arrived, and her upward trajectory since then has seemingly yet to level off.
After slugging 15 homers and batting .250 as a freshman, she hit .309 with 15 homers again as a sophomore, .360 with 22 homers as a junior and is now batting .380 with 22 bombs and 68 RBIs in 55 games this year.
I think it’s going to be nice for me to have in 20 years and be able to come back and watch as an alumn or just know that I accomplished something so great. It’s always a great thing to have behind you.
CCU’s Morgan Noad
While she hopes to help the Chants return to the NCAA tournament with a Big South championship this week and another notch on her resume, her legacy will always be connected to that home run record – especially if it’s not surpassed for quite some time.
And looking back on everything that went into it, she’s certainly proud of that fact.
“I think it’s going to be nice for me to have in 20 years and be able to come back and watch as an alumn or just know that I accomplished something so great,” she said. “It’s always a great thing to have behind you.”
In front of her, meanwhile, is one more postseason push.
Opponents have been pitching around Noad more so than ever before, but Green for one hopes that her senior slugger isn’t done putting that home run record out of reach just yet.
“Teams are being extremely cautious, but she’ll be ready for [the] Big South [tournament],” Green said. “If they bring it anywhere in the plate and in her zone, she’ll be ready.”
Chants ride into Big South tournament with momentum
The Coastal Carolina softball team endured some bumps in the road early this season, but the Chanticleers have been cruising for most of the last month and a half and now hope to ride that momentum to an NCAA tournament berth.
To do that, the Chants will have to win the Big South tournament this week in Rock Hill as they open play Wednesday evening against Charleston Southern.
No. 2-seeded Coastal Carolina comes into the double-elimination tournament with a 35-20 overall record and wins in 13 of its last 14 games, including a two-game series sweep of the No. 7 Buccaneers in mid April.
“From a coaching standpoint this is exactly where we want to be,” Chants coach Kelley Green said. “Where we were in August to where we are now, to see the amount of improvement, the amount of growth from everyone, from our pitching to our hitters and especially our defense, we’ve never had this much improvement in the course of a year.”
The team’s only loss in those last 14 games was a 1-0 defeat to Longwood, the top seed in the tournament this week, and going back to late March the Chants have won 20 of their last 23 games.
In addition to momentum, the Chants also come into the tournament decorated with fresh accolades as senior catcher Morgan Noad was named the Big South Player of the Year, freshman outfielder Taty Forbes was named the conference’s freshman of the year and senior first baseman Mackenzie Conrad was named the league’s scholar-athlete of the year.
Along with Noad and Forbes, senior outfielder Bri Chiusano and senior utility Kelsey Dominik were also named first-team All-Big South, Conrad and sophomore designated player Annie Robinson earned second-team honors and pitcher Ashley Guillette was also named to the all-freshman team.
“Very pleased with where we are right now,” Green reiterated. “After seeing us in the fall and early spring, I’m not sure that I envisioned us playing this well right now, to be honest. They’ve just worked hard and continued to grow. ... But we also know this next game is the most important.”
Said Noad: “We’ve come so far from the beginning of this whole conference [season] and we’ve come from behind, and I think we have never been so ready.”
| Ryan Young, email@example.com