y Brian Paglia
Morrow's transformation into the best softball team in Clayton County began four years ago.
That's when those seven seniors that lined up along the first baseline after the Mustang's 13-2 victory over Mt. Zion on Wednesday were freshmen.
Those seven seniors encountered a strange new foe that year unlike any they'd seen before: fast-pitch softball.
Their journey came to an astonishing climax Wednesday, as the Mustangs punctuated their finest season in school history with a win over the only Clayton County team that had defeated them.
The Bulldogs (12-9, 4-5 in Region 4-AAAA) beat Morrow 6-5 on August 23, to win the Clayton County Tournament.
The Mustangs (14-4, 5-3 in Region 4A-AAAAA) hadn't forgotten that game, as they went on to win their next five games against county teams.
"We wanted to work so hard because we wanted to make sure that we beat them this game," Kandis Banks said.
It's been Banks' arm that has carried Morrow through its most auspicious season in school history, in which it set a new school record for wins in a season (14).
She carried the Mustangs again Wednesday, throwing five strong innings and allowing only one earned run on five hits. She struck out 11 and hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the third inning, a decisive blow that gave Morrow a 7-1 lead it wouldn't relinquish.
"She had awesome control," Jones said. "Earlier in the season, little bit of a problem with control, but she's doing a great job. Got a lot of wins under her belt."
As Banks has mastered her control and the mound, so have the Mustangs dominated its county foes. Through the seniors' first two seasons, when Morrow was a Region 2-AAAAA member, the Mustangs were 3-3 against county teams. Now in Region 4A-AAAAA, the Mustangs compete against their county rivals more often and defeat them more frequently, going 16-3 the past two years.
Morrow has had trouble defeating the elite softball teams from counties that cultivate collegiate-level softball talent. They'd lost their past two games against East Coweta and Chapel Hill, the top two teams in the region, by a combined 28-0.
But Morrow quickly turned things around against Mt. Zion. They scored twiced in the bottom half of the first thanks to three Bulldogs errors, then scored two more runs in the second on a Mt. Zion error and Sharifa Chandler groundout RBI to make it 4-1.
Shani Chandler later hit a three-run home run, her second hit of the afternoon, to make it 13-2. Chandler also had a triple and four RBIs.
"We came back and won," Jones said. "We were stuck on win No. 13, so now we're going in the right direction."
Those seven seniors that lined up after the game for Morrow's senior night - the ones that won only two games as freshman when they tried to grasp the jump to fast-pitch softball in high school from slow-pitch at the recreational level - took their roses, the cupcakes a parent brought and later called themselves something they never could before: the best softball team in Clayton County.