The home runs keep coming for Husky softball catcher Morganne Flores, but the UW junior doesn’t take it for granted.
Not after tearing her ACL before last season started, ending her season before it began.
“It taught me that you never know when the game can be taken from you,” said Flores, who redshirted last season. “So you have to be present on every pitch, and take advantage of every pitch, because it’s a gift. It gave me a new perspective on the game and to take in the moment.”
Flores has taken advantage of a lot of pitches after returning this season. She leads the Huskies in home runs, with 18 of the team’s 38, with the next high on the team having just four. Flores has hit two fewer homers than opponents have hit combined against Washington.
Flores’ 47 runs batted in are easily the team’s best, as is her 1.166 on-base plus slugging percentage. Her .326 batting average is fourth on the team, and she loves being a catcher, because she is in the middle of everything.
She is a big reason why UW is 42-7 and ranked second in the country heading into the final weekend of the regular season, with the Huskies playing a three-game series against Stanford at home beginning Thursday.
Flores’ gaudy hitting stats disguise the fact that her comeback wasn’t as easy as it appears. It took time for her to regain the confidence she had always had. After struggling a bit in the first month of the season (two homers and a.258 batting average through 19 games), she has been crushing foes.
“It was tough at the beginning, coming back physically and mentally because I had never been through an injury like that before,” she said. “It was a lot of hard, physical work that I had to push my body through. I thought the physical part was going to be the hardest, but mentally coming back and regaining my confidence was the hardest thing. It was just trusting myself and my ability.”
It was also tough not being on the field last year with her teammates, who reached the College Softball World Series title series against Florida State, which UW lost. Flores was forced into a new role, helping scout opponents on video, charting pitches in the dugout and talking to players before the game about their game plans.
“It was a little tough not being on the field in the World Series, because that’s my favorite time of the year,” Flores said. “But I still felt a part of the team. My teammates were really supportive of my injury and how I got through it.”
Flores was one of the top high school players in the country at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif., but there were no recruiting wars for her services. She committed to UW as a high school freshman after making a visit to the school.
“I wanted to go out of state really badly and I wanted to experience something different,” she said. “Washington was my second visit, and I fell in love right away. I loved the school, loved the coaching staff and I connected right away with coach (Heather) Tarr. I knew this was where I wanted to be.”
Flores said she has never once regretted coming north. She made an immediate impact, and was on the Pac-12 all-freshman team. As a sophomore, Flores led the Pac-12 with 64 runs batted in, setting up what promised to be a great junior season.
It just happened a year later than expected. And she’s doing it with a more well-rounded focus, having concentrated on the mental side of the game for the first time last year, “because that was the only thing I could.”
Flores will be able to focus fully on softball this postseason, having taken classes in the summer so she could graduate last quarter with a bachelor’s degree in environmental sciences. Next year, she will begin work on a two-year master’s program in education while playing as a senior.
The team’s goal, as always, is to get to the College World Series, and that journey will begin next week in an NCAA tournament regional that UW will undoubtedly host.
“I think we are at a great point right now,” Flores said. “Everyone is contributing, even off the bench.”
Much of the power comes from Flores, not that it has surprised her coach.
“Right when Morganne got hurt, I knew she was going to be fine, because of her work ethic and her commitment, and that she would do what it would take to get back,” Tarr said. “She is very good.”