Three-sport standout Morgan Giddings wants to wrap up her remarkable softball career in style

By Steve Gunn
Local Sports Journal

MUSKEGON – Most people can only push themselves so hard for so long before exhaustion takes its toll.

But Oakridge senior Morgan Giddings seems to have an endless supply of physical energy.

Morgan Giddings. Photo/Sherry Wahr

Morgan Giddings. Photo/Sherry Wahr

Last summer she played softball on an elite travel team. In August she joined the Oakridge volleyball team for a three-month season. She also played softball in the fall, when she’s wasn’t playing volleyball.

In November it was time for varsity basketball, a four-month commitment. Then it was straight to softball this spring to cap off her varsity year.

Her schedule involved day after day of practice or games for nearly a year, with few breaks. Between all of it she had to deal with her school work, at night and on the weekends.

So now, with the softball season winding down and graduation just days away, Giddings must be more than ready to take a breath and rest.

Right?

Not even close.

Softball is Giddings’ favorite sport, and she’s having the best season of her varsity career. She had a sizzling .558 batting average at the end of last week, along with 33 RBIs and 38 stolen bases.

She’s virtually guaranteed to earn a second straight berth on the Division 3 All-State team, and is considered a candidate for the Miss Softball award, which goes to the best overall player in Michigan.

There’s also the fact that her team is finally winning a lot of games. The Oakridge softball squad posted so-so records in each of Giddings’ first three seasons,  before catching fire this spring.

The Eagles have a 25-5 record and the most wins in school history. They shared the West Michigan Conference title with North Muskegon and head into Saturday’s Division 3 district tournament with a lot of momentum.

‘”No,” Giddings said, when asked if she was ready for her long sports season to end. “I sleep a lot of the weekends. Besides, I don’t play sports just to play sports. I love to play. It’s what keeps me going.  It’s so much fun I couldn’t possibly get tired of it.”

BORN TO BE AN EAGLE

Giddings was born to be an Oakridge High School athlete.

Morgan Giddings drives to the basket for Oakridge. Photo/Sherry Wahr

Morgan Giddings drives to the basket for Oakridge. Photo/Sherry Wahr

Both of her parents and her brother played sports at Oakridge, along with a host of cousins and other relatives.

“I’m pretty sure I was an athlete at birth,” said Giddings, who will play softball and basketball for Muskegon Community College in 2014-15. “I think my parents were always putting some sort of ball in my crib for me to play with.”

Giddings not only turned out to be athletic, but very good at everything she plays.

She’s was a four-year starter in varsity basketball and a Class C honorable mention All-State selection last winter.

The wily point guard averaged 15.6 points per game in her senior season, along with about four steals and four assists.

“She’s probably the toughest athlete I’ve ever coached,” Oakridge girls basketball coach Terry DeJonge said last winter. “She’s a slasher, hits threes, dishes off and isn’t afraid to get fouled. To me she’s the best guard on this side of the state.”

Last fall Giddings added volleyball to the mix, and earned All-Conference recognition in that sport as well, despite being away from the game since middle school.

“My friends actually convinced me to play,” she said. “It was sort of a senior year, last hurrah sort of thing.”

Giddings is even a great student. She will graduate seventh in the Oakridge class of 2014 with a grade point average around 3.9.

Her classroom success paid off last week when Giddings was named the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame’s Female Student-Athlete of the Year.

So when on earth does she find time to study?

“At night after sports, before practice, five minutes before class – whenever I have a few extra minutes,” said Giddings, who plans to study graphic design in college.

AMAZING CONTACT HITTER

Despite all the honors in other sports, the softball season is the highlight of the year for Giddings.

Her offensive numbers have improved every season of her varsity career.

She hit .402 with seven RBIs and 12 stolen bases as a freshman. She hit .459 with 15 RBIs and 17 stolen bases as a sophomore. Last season she hit a monstrous .489 with 17 RBIs and 40 stolen bases.

This year she’s been literally on fire, collecting 53 hits in 95 at bats through last week’s games.

Perhaps her most amazing skill is her ability to make contact at the plate.

Giddings has only struck out eight times in four years of varsity softball (about 350 at bats), and six came in her freshman season.

“That’s probably one of the most eye-popping stats you’ll ever see,” said Oakridge softball coach Joe Coletta. “She always makes contact and good things usually happen. She’s just one of those remarkable athletes.”

“I don’t try to not strike out,” said Giddings, who is also an outstanding defensive shortstop. “I just try to hit the ball. I actually prefer faster pitchers. There’s no time to think, you just swing.”

What’s truly remarkable is that Giddings never played softball before high school.

The closest experience she had was playing several years of little league baseball with a bunch of boys during her elementary years. She said that was fun, but it wasn’t exactly preparation for softball.

“I made the all-star team most of the time I  think,” Giddings said about her baseball experience. “but softball moves a lot quicker than baseball, and the rules are different, too. Mostly when I started playing softball, I just practiced a lot to get into the flow of things.”

Despite all of her personal success, none of Giddings’ teams in any sport have advanced beyond regional play in high school state tournaments.

The softball team had a major disappointment last year, losing a district qualifier game to Hesperia and making the earliest possible exit from the postseason tournament.

Giddings is determined to see her team do much better this year. The Eagles started out well Tuesday, beating Hesperia 11-1 in a district qualifier to get even for last year’s defeat.

Now they move on to Saturday’s district tournament, where they will play White Cloud at 11 a.m. at Hesperia High School. If they win they play in the title game later that afternoon. The winner of the tournament moves on to regionals.

“I’m pumped,” Giddings said. “I want to go to the state finals and I want to win state. This year I just feel it’s going to be different.”

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