CLERMONT, Fla.-A 91-mile drive is all that separates the NTC Spring Games (Clermont, Fla.) from sophomore Morgan Kingston's hometown of Satellite Beach, Fla. A return to Florida to kick off the Coast Guard softball season might be just what the proverbial doctor ordered to get Kingston's season off to a hot start.
The shortstop made a tremendous impact on the team and in the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference last year on her way to earning second team All-NEWMAC honors. Kingston batted a robust .382 in her debut season to finish second on the team while her 47 hits and 21 runs batted in ranked behind only junior All-New England catcher Jessie Richardson. She would go on to lead the team with 27 runs scored and 116 assists while ranking second in stolen bases (6) and on-base percentage (.412),
The key to her great season last year was a strong start. In her first 10 collegiate games – all played in Kissimmee, Fla. – Kingston batted .345 (10-for-29) while driving in five runs and drawing four walks (for an OBP of .424).
As an added bonus, she was able to compete on fields she'd been playing on since middle school while her parents were able to see her begin her collegiate career. "I am so fortunate that my parents are able to attend," says Kingston who claims that the weather played a part in making the transition smoother. "Playing in the heat is much more normal to me than playing in the cold weather!" and as anyone who's sat on the banks of the Thames River for a softball game in April can tell you, cold weather rules the Coast Guard softball season.
Coach Koczajowski raves about Kingston on both sides of the ball, but says it was really her defense that stood out to her immediately. "Morgan came into our program and won the starting shortstop job as a 4/c. Often it is difficult for a 4/c to earn such a pivotal defensive position because of the leadership aspects on the field," starts Coach Koczajowski, before continuing to say, "Morgan has been able to make a transition seamlessly. She is a very talented player who solidifies our left side of the infield."
When asked about opening the season so close to home Kingston said, "Opening the season in Florida is great. The weather is the best this time of year, and it really reminds me of all the memories I made in past years playing softball."
If not for the actual start of games, it's great to just get out onto the dirt and grass after a winter of practicing on the fifth deck in Roland Hall. "I think Coach (Koczajowski) does a great job of utilizing the space, and getting us team defense practice but what a difference one day outside can make." The outdoor practice time is great to everyone, not just natives of the Sunshine State as Kingston says, "We are able to better recognize each other's strong and weak points, and really focus on the things that are going to make us successful as a team."
A similar start to her freshman campaign could be the key to the Bears' early season success as Kingston will almost certainly occupy the lead-off or second slot in the batting order for 17th year head coach Donna Koczajowski. "Expectations are high for Morgan, who will set the tone for our offense. She has the ability to get on base, hit for average, as well as being an aggressive base runner who will score many runs for us," says coach Koczajowski.
On Opening Day, Kingston went 4-for-9 as the Bears swept a pair of games, defeating The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) and Penn St.-Behrend. In the opener, Kingston 1-4 and scored a pair of runs while she recorded a 3-5 effort in the nightcap while driving in a pair and scoring three runs of her own.
It was a great start towards her stated goals for Kingston who – along with being a good communicator, extending her range, and developing as a field leader – ultimately strives to reach First Team All-NEWMAC honors.
Coast Guard returns to action Tuesday, March 11th when they take on Anna Maria and Richard Stockton at 9:00 am and 11:00 am, respectively.