Sometimes a twist of fate sends a high school athlete on an unusual route to the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference ranks.
Great Bend High School softball standout Stephanie Morrison’s trek to hometown Barton Community College came as a result of a detour off the beaten path on U.S. Route 66 in the Oklahoma/Texas Panhandle.
Morrison, a three-time All-WesternAthletic Conference first-team performer, who has signed to play softball for Barton, originally planned to join her older sister, Abbie Morrison, after the two visited and signed letters of intent last November to play for NCAA Division-II Oklahoma Panhandle State University in Goodwell, Okla.
Abbie was a mainstay in her own right for the Lady Panthers, a first-team all-conference player, who signed and pitched for one season at D-II Fort Hays State University before transferring to Dodge City CC prior to last season.
But she only pitched a few games for the Lady Conquistadors as her season was curtailed because of injury.
As a result, in May, the sisters decided to scrap their plans in the panhandle.
“We actually both signed to go play at Oklahoma Panhandle,” Stephanie said. “But Abbie, she can no longer play because of her shoulder. She has what is called Thoracic outlet syndrome, and doctors told her she shouldn’t play anymore.
“That’s when I decided Barton was the best fit for me.”
Their parents, Steve and Denise, work and reside in Great Bend.
“I know I wanted to stay close to my family,” Stephanie said. “Really, I wanted to stay at home and play for the new coach (Marc Benjamin) that we have.”
From the hot corner at third base, Stephanie became a cornerstone for the Lady Panthers.
“Stephanie was a four-year starter for us and led the team in hitting this past season, batting .452,” Great Bend head coach Carrie Minton said. “She did a good job for us as a leadoff hitter and found a way to get on base a lot.
“She was a very good player for us.”
The right-handed-hitting Morrison also led the team in at-bats (73), hits (33) and doubles (eight). She tied teammate McKenna Mauler for a team-best 24 runs scored.
As a junior, Stephanie batted .390 with 32 hits while driving in 16 runs. As a sophomore, she carried a .549 average into Class 5A regional play.
“She led us in a lot of categories,” Minton said. “She was a very productive player.”
The Homecoming Queen at GBHS for winter sports, Stephanie said she began playing on the same softball teams with Abbie when she was 14 and then on up through high school.
“Playing with her, I always wanted to be just like her and we competed a lot together to see which one would be better,” Stephanie said. “She drove me hard.”
According to Morrison, she has signed as an infielder at Barton.
“Actually, my first year of playing third base was my freshman year in high school,” she said, adding that she has some fond memories of playing for the Lady Panthers. “Usually I played up the middle at second base and short, too. I will play wherever they need me.
“I loved playing with those girls (at GBHS). Those girls really held it together. It was fun playing for them.”
The Lady Panthers have posted a 52-14 record over the last three years since Minton took over the program, including 17-5 in 2011, 17-5 in 2012 and 18-4 this past spring.