Fresh off a season where the high school Red Raiders were one inning away from claiming a state title, four former Madison County softball players just missed playing for a national title.
Madison County’s Olivia Duncan, Abby Atkinson, Taylor Morgan, and Megan Kesler play for Piedmont College’s (NCAA Division 3) softball team, which just missed advancing to Wisconsin for a shot at a national championship. The Lady Lions competed recently at the Salem Regional hosted by Roanoke College.
Kesler and Morgan were the senior pair from Madison County with Kesler picking up All-Tournament honors at the Salem Regional.
Kesler posted a .400 batting average in the NCAA tourney sparking several key scoring innings for Piedmont while also picking up the game-winning hit in a 7-6 victory over the nation’s fourth ranked team, Emory University. Kesler spent all four years playing first base for the Lady Lions saving her best season for last as the Colbert native was a career .250 hitter leading up her senior season where she lit it up at the plate in 2013 hitting .313 over the year.
“The seniors did a very good job of leading us,” said Piedmont head coach Terry Martin. “They brought in three years of experience — two of which they went to the regionals….Megan Kesler had a great year offensively, just real good leadership there.”
Morgan spent her time in Demorest patrolling centerfield for Martin, fielding her position at a .939 clip and making just 11 errors compared to over 200 putouts though she also did damage at the plate for PC. Hitting in the #2 slot throughout most of the career, Morgan walked more than 70 times in over the last four seasons leading the team in the category over that time as she placed in the top five for her team in the same column during each of her four years at PC.
“Taylor came through for us in clutch situations there at the end to help us out and get where we were at,” said Martin. “She had a good final weekend.”
As a sophomore middle infielder for Piedmont, Atkinson’s impact was felt offensively as well as she hit .373 during the 2013 campaign making close to 30 starts for the Lady Lions on the year.
Atkinson’s speed worried many of the opponents on this season’s schedule as she stole 12 bases on 13 attempts and accounted for 25 runs on the year, a top 10 mark on the team.
“Abby was battling through a shoulder injury and we got her playing time,” said Martin. “She didn’t start out on the field, but when she got a chance, she stepped up and stayed in there pretty much until the end when she pulled a hamstring. At that point, she had done a great job for us.”
In her debut season for Piedmont, Duncan was one of three All-Tournament selections for PC at the NCAAs as she was seven for 11 at the plate with four RBIs, 3 runs scored, a pair of doubles, and five walks as not many opposing pitchers enjoyed watching her walk up to the plate. On the season, the 2013 USA South Rookie Player of the Year was stellar in her first season in Demorest becoming one of just a select few Lady Lions to hit better than .400 on the season as a full-time starter swinging .431 on the year with 11 doubles and 41 RBIs, both team highs.
“Olivia won the rookie player of the year in the conference we were in and batted over .400,” said Martin. “It’s great to know you’ve got a freshman coming in like that that has the experience and the talent.”
Martin praised the Madison County softball program and the work Red Raider coach Doug Kesler has done over the years developing players.
“A lot of the ‘atta boys goes to coach Kesler for building his program down there throughout the years, putting his heart into that,” said Martin. “And not just the high school team. He started the camps for the little girls, so they could learn. He needs a lot of credit for all that.”