By Ben Robinson
COVINGTON — Morgan McReynolds, a 2014 graduate of Covington High School, thought her softball career was over after an unexpected defeat in the district final this past season.
But good things - and even unexpected things - happen to good people like Morgan McReynolds.
McReynolds - who battled her way back from an ACL injury her freshman year to help the Lady Buccs win a total of 104 games and reach three straight state final four appearances over her high school career - earned an unexpected opportunity to continue playing softball at the collegiate level for Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio.
“I pretty much had my heart set on going to Akron,” Morgan said. “Softball wasn’t even in my thought process because I wanted to go to a good school that had my major (Radiation Technology). Not many schools have my major and softball, so I thought I was done playing.”
That was until Morgan’s mom, Jody, found Shawnee State, which eventually led to a softball tryout on July 21st.
“I went down to look at the school and they had an open tryout,” Morgan said. “I didn’t expect anything, but they offered me scholarship money that day. They liked my hitting and my speed. I was the second fastest girl there.”
While Morgan was trying out, her parents (Don and Jody) sat in the car waiting, not expecting much.
“She continued to work (on softball) since the season ended, but we didn’t expect much at all,” said Jody. “Morgan tried out and then walked to the car with a gloomy look on her face. We thought it went bad, but she got into the car and said they offered her a scholarship. We were stunned.”
The entire trip for Morgan was rewarding because she fell in love with the school well before the open tryout. Even if the softball opportunity didn’t work out, McReynolds felt an attraction to Shawnee State.
“I always had it in my mind that I wanted to go to a college that I knew in my heart I would like, regardless of whether I had an opportunity to play sports,” she said. “I liked Shawnee State right away, but when they offered me (a scholarship) I knew for sure where I wanted to go.”
Which makes her the seventh player out of the 12 graduates Dean Denlinger has coached over the past four years that has moved on to play college softball - the others being Chloe Shell, Aubreye Cain, Casey Yingst, Heidi Snipes, Connor Schaffer and Haley Adams.
“That’s why Coach Denlinger is a great coach,” Morgan said. “I’ve played for him since I was ten and I’m blessed to be one of the girls who gets to play in college.”
Dean Denlinger doesn’t take the credit for Covington’s success of producing collegiate softball players. Instead, he passes the credit onto the kids.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have great kids with great families,” said Denlinger. “These kids (at Covington) work hard and that’s why they’ve been successful.”
Softball at Covington is about hard work, commitment and discipline, which McReynolds feels will help her when she takes the field for the Bears of Shawnee State in 2015.
“Coach Denlinger taught me discipline and mental toughness,” said Morgan. “We expect to win at Covington and Shawnee State has that same winning attitude. That’s what I really liked about their softball program.”
Denlinger also feels McReynolds will be successful at Shawnee State, but for entirely different reasons.
“Muck (Morgan) is a very self driven kid and such a great kid,” he said. “She’s had some adversity with injuries and such, but always kept a positive attitude and continued to work hard. She became a leader for us this year (in 2014) and that’s because of the type of kid she is - one who leads by example. She’ll fit in very well at Shawnee State.”
Good things - even unexpected things - happen to good people.
And Morgan McReynolds is proof of that.