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Morris making most of unexpected chance
The Criminal dugout looked on in anguish as their No. 1 pitcher Bri Stephens injured her shoulder in the second inning Feb. 28 against San Luis.
As soon as it happened, Yuma High sophomore pitcher Lezlie Morris knew her weekend plans had just changed.
“I've been in that situation before,” said Morris, who is coming off a knee injury herself. “So I knew how bad it really sucks watching the girls go on without you.”
Morris was charged with the task of starting every Criminal game in the Colorado River Invitational, which she did quite admirably. Morris threw shutout after shutout, blanking Coachella Valley 10-0, Pahrump 7-0 and Needles 6-0.
“This weekend I think gave her an opportunity to really work on several of her pitches,” Yuma High coach Liz Huyck said. “Her curve ball was working well. She got a lot more game-time experience, which will be great going into this week, but it would be nice to get her a break, too.”
With Stephens out until at least Monday, it doesn't look like that break is coming anytime soon.
Morris changed a few things around in her routine to prepare for the ensuing pitching marathon.
“I had to practice a lot more on not just my pitching, but my stamina — a lot of exercising and running and stuff. Then I had to get my mind focused. I had to get my mind wrapped around the seven games we had to play. So it was my thinking and my whole manner of everything that had to change.”
Huyck did everything she could to keep Morris fresh during the tournament: routine icing, a pinch runner every time Morris reached base and making sure Morris kept her jacket on between games. Unfortunately, Morris' arm could only take the Criminals so far.
Morris and the Criminal defense were struggling against Rancho in the semifinal game, and Huyck took a couple visits out to the circle.
“The first time I went out, she said, ‘I'm OK, I'm OK,'” Huyck said. “I said we're going to play defense behind you, just keep it together. The second time I went out, she knew, and we all knew. I said good job, you got us this far, which she did.”
Yuma High would lose 12-1, but the loss couldn't take anything away from the fact that Morris just pitched seven games in three days.
“It was a pretty cool feeling,” Morris said. “I haven't done it in so long, especially getting older. The first one really boost my confidence so I was able to go through the tournament feeling confident in what I was doing.”
Morris rested as much as she could before losing to Cibola 5-0 Tuesday and 6-5 to Holtville Wednesday. Against Holtville, she allowed just one earned run and struck out nine in the loss, giving up six hits and five walks.
“I love this team,” Morris said. “This team is really fun to be around. Coming here makes my day. Seeing these girls, they really help me out with my pitching and making me work harder.”