Prep baseball: Alex Morgan signs

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 23, 2012

By Mike London
SPENCER — Alex Morgan rescued North Rowan’s Senior Night — and maybe the Cavaliers’ season — with a two-run, seventh-inning double on Friday that provided a 2-1 YVC win against Albemarle.
A right-handed hitter, Morgan drove a fastball a long way to right field in a clutch situation, and it’s that ability to hammer pitches from foul line to foul line that makes him a next-level player.
“When Alex goes up there with the right mindset, he’s as good a hitter as there is in this county,” North coach Aaron Rimer said. “He can go gap to gap with the best of ’em.”
Also present in Morgan’s toolbox are strength (Rimer says he’s one of the strongest in the school), versatility and the speed to steal 18 bases. He’s tied for first in the county in that category with Salisbury’s Brian Bauk.
Morgan signed recently with Methodist University in Fayetteville and will join North teammate Mason Jennings with the green-and-gold Monarchs, who are a perennial winner in Division III.
“I went to a showcase camp and they started talking to me,” Morgan said. “It’s a nice place, and they’ve got the major (athletic training) I’m interested in. I’m sure it’s the right decision for me.”
Like Jennings, Morgan can play different places on the diamond. He’s been used in right field and at second and third base this year, and he’ll catch when catcher/pitcher Clint Veal is on the mound.
Morgan often caught as a junior when a strong North squad went 22-7 and reached the third round of the 1A state playoffs.
“I think I’m best at catching,” Morgan said. “But where I really like to play most is second base. Playing outfield gives me a chance to stretch my legs, but I’ll be an infielder or catcher in college.”
Morgan has been friends with many North players since kindergarten, but he spent time at East Rowan early in his high school career.
“I hated it when I thought we’d lost him, but then I was excited to get him back,” Jennings said. “Alex brings a lot of intensity to the field and he can play just about anywhere.”
Even serious baseball fans had barely heard of Morgan when the 2011 season started, but he announced his presence quickly by going 13-for-18 in his first five varsity games.
He finished up with a .422 batting average, a .523 on-base percentage, 36 RBIs and all-county recognition.
On the surface, Morgan’s senior year hasn’t been as strong, but his RBIs (10) are down because of his changed role in a far less potent lineup.
His batting average (.357) is off a little, but the important thing is his on-base percentage — .538 — is still terrific. That awesome OBP is why Rimer moved him to the leadoff spot to be a catalyst for the offense.
Batting leadoff also might get him an extra at-bat per game. That made a difference against Albemarle.
“What really sticks out to me about Alex is he’s got 19 walks (plus one HBP) and just five strikeouts,” Rimer said. “That’s an amazing ratio.”
Morgan belted his first homer of the season last week against Gray Stone, and explained that his approach on that long at-bat was typical.
“I’ll jump on that first pitch once in a while, but I’m usually patient,” he said. “I’ll walk or make a pitcher throw enough pitches that he’ll make a mistake. The homer came when I waited until I got a 3-2 fastball down the middle.”
Morgan’s immediate goal is to help North make the playoffs, and he plans to compete for the Rowan County American Legion team following North’s season.
After that, he should be a good player in college.
“He’s just a very athletic guy who’s strong and runs well,” Rimer said. “And once he’s concentrating on one defensive position in college, he’ll be pretty darn good at it.”