By suiting up for Ozark this season, freshman Natalie Morgan has been living her dream she imagined while watching her older sister, Nya, do the same.
Nya graduated in 2019 as the Lady Tigers’ single-season and career home run leader. During her career, she had a wide-eyed fan watching her every move.
“Sometimes, I would even miss school to go to her games,” Natalie said. “When I wasn’t at a game, our Dad would text me that Nya hit another home run and I'd say, 'That's not surprising.' I was excited for her to be so successful.”
Naturally, Natalie couldn’t wait for her turn to be a Lady Tiger.
“I was counting down the minutes,” she said. “I was excited and ready to be here.”
Natalie has burst upon the scene as Ozark coach Jimmy Nimmo’s starting catcher since the start of the season. Nya was also a catcher.
Morgan and the Lady Tigers are fresh from claiming the Carthage Tournament championship over the weekend. Ozark (22-7) enters Class 5 District 6 as the No. 2 seed and is due to meet Glendale on Tuesday. The Lady Tigers closed regular-season play by winning 11 of their final 12 games.
“It's all I ever thought it was going to be. I love it,” Morgan said of varsity ball. “It's surreal. I didn't think I would be in the lineup as a varsity catcher my freshman year. I've been super excited about it.”
Natalie has had Nya in the dugout with her as a volunteer assistant coach. Nya relates Natalie compares favorably to her at the same juncture of their careers.
“She's better than I was at her age,” Nya said. “She has much more experience catching than I had when I was a freshman.”
Naturally, Nya has passed along anything she can to Natalie.
“When I was younger she gave me hitting and catching lessons,” Natalie said. “More than anything, she's taught me to be very bonded with my teammates, so when we're on the field I know what they're going to do and how I should trust them.”
Nimmo, who coached both Morgans, notes they share the same strong passion for softball.
“They both love the game, work hard and are coachable,” Nimmo said. “There’s a lot of potential (with Natalie).”
Class 5 District 6
1 p.m. — Springfield Central (1-14) vs. Nixa (20-8); 3 p.m. — No. 5 Carthage (20-130 vs. No. 4 Kickapoo (18-10); 5 p.m. — No. 7 Glendale (17-10) vs. No. 2 Ozark (22-7); 7 p.m. — No. 6 Joplin (15-13) vs. No. 3 Republic (15-9-1)
4:30 p.m. — Carthage-Kickapoo winner vs. Central-Nixa winner; 6:30 p.m. — Joplin-Republic winner vs. Glendale-Ozark winner
4:30 p.m. — Championship