The very second Jackson senior Morgan Conklin could step on a diamond to play organized ball, she did. Conklin was around six-years-old when her softball career began, which is not surprising since a number of her cousins played as well.
“I was around [softball] like a lot, and I think I have always loved it more than anything,” Conklin said. “I don’t remember a time where I didn’t want to play college softball.”
Conklin’s dream was fulfilled when she signed with Jefferson Community College last month after spending the last four years as a member of the Jackson softball team’s infield. In her last two seasons with the Indians, Conklin earned SEMO All-Conference and Class 4 District 1 All-District honors as the Indians shortstop.
“My dad was always my coach, and he always pushed me, so I made it — I beat him,” Conklin laughed. “We had a lot of disagreements mainly because we are so similar. After he was done with high school sports, he pretty much lived through me. I was also his first child, so he pushed me really hard. I didn’t deal with that well sometimes, but he definitely prepared me to have a coach that was tough on me.”
Heading into high school softball, Conklin expressed she was nervous, but her father as well as other coaches let Conklin know she was a natural leader. Conklin became more comfortable as each season passed and was able to find her “swagger.”
In Conklin’s junior year, Jackson finished with an overall record of 14-9 and won the conference regular-season championship for the first time in several years. Conklin tied for first in doubles (six), finished third in batting average (.415) and fourth in hits (27), while coming up with a 90.7 fielding percentage.
The Indians were unable to repeat as conference champions this season, but they managed to improve their record to 17-9 overall and were two runs away from reaching the district title game.
“I definitely wish I could’ve had more than one district championship under my belt, but [I still made memories] with the girls I got to play with,” Conklin said. “Having [Shawn] Wilding as my head coach — I wish I would’ve had more years with him.”
Conklin’s fielding percentage dropped to 89.7% this past season, but her numbers at the plate increased as she finished with 32 hits, nine doubles, two home runs, 19 runs scored as well as 19 runs batted in. She also finished with a .400 batting average for the second-straight year.
“I wanted to win a district championship [this season], and I wanted to improve my stats, but I really didn’t let it get to my head,” Conklin said. “I just wanted to have the best season of my high school career because it was my last season, and I didn’t want to leave anything out.”
Conklin will be continuing her playing career with a familiar face at JeffCo since fellow senior Sierra Burch signed with the college on the same day.
Burch primarily played as Jackson’s designated hitter last year, but this season she had to start on defense at third base. Conklin helped Burch with the transition.
“I definitely had to push her a lot because at first she was nervous,” Conklin said. “I had her back all the time.”
In the middle of Jackson’s infield was Conklin along with whom she describes as her rock in sophomore second baseman Miranda Carnell. Coach Wilding, who helped lead Silex High School win two state championships as an assistant, said Carnell and Conklin made for one of the best infield duos he has ever seen as a coach.
“The best way that I can put it is we shared a brain,” Conklin said. “Whenever I talk on the field, I don’t even say complete sentences, but I could say one thing or give her a look and she knows exactly what we are doing. I one hundred percent trust her.”
Being in shape as well as hitting will be Conklin’s focus heading into college softball. When she is not training for softball or playing, Conklin will be studying elementary education to become a physical education teacher.
“My mom is an elementary teacher, and I have always wanted to be one,” Conklin said. “I kind of started to rethink it because it seems like a lot sometimes with kids all the time every day, so that’s why I started thinking about being a P.E. teacher. Then I could coach, too.”