John Marshall gets jump on University in softball regional

MORGANTOWN — Passed down like a pair of jeans or sneakers: That is sort of the idea Lauren Garcia has in mind when asked the reason for the success of the John Marshall softball team.

There is more to it than that, of course.

If athletic success were simply handed down from one roster to another, the Chicago Bulls would be dominant and not in the lottery and the Dallas Cowboys would still be able to win playoff games.

“It really all kind of started for us watching my older sister play,” Garcia said May 15, after leading the Monarchs to a 17-0 victory against University High in the first game of the Region I final, at Mylan Park.

The two teams will meet again, at Moundsville, at 5 p.m. today, in the second game of a best-of-three series. If the Hawks are unable to pull off two straight wins, it would be another shutout of Monongalia County teams from the state softball tournament.

Mon County hasn’t been represented at the state tournament since the Hawks qualified in 1994.

Megan Garcia was a standout pitcher who led John Marshall to the 2012 state championship.

“I was always watching her games,” Lauren said. “Some of my teammates now were usually watching, too. Watching them win a state title, I think that made a lasting impression on us and made us want to get to that level.”

The Monarchs (27-1) may be well on their way. They won their 23rd consecutive game behind Garcia’s two-hitter on the mound and a lethal hitting lineup that pounded out 17 hits — seven for extra bases.

“They were just hitting shots, and it was up and down the lineup,” UHS head coach Mindy Parks said. “Some of that you just can’t defend. I mean, what do you do when they just keep hitting home runs and balls to the gap? You can’t defend that.”

It is the result of a total team commitment to the sport, Garcia said.

“We really don’t have much of an offseason,” said Garcia, who added a three-run home run and a two-run double to go with her pitching performance. “As a team, we all play travel ball in the summer and then we all work out together before our season starts.”

John Marshall forms its own summer travel team — the Diamond Chicks — and they compete in surrounding states.

“We won the (North American All Sanctioned) World Series last summer in Columbus (Ohio),” Garcia said. “The fact that we all keep playing together helps us. We play good competition, which helps us to get better.”

Mon County players generally find teams in Waynesburg, Pa., or Pittsburgh to play for, Parks said, but there is no dedicated summer team in Morgantown for softball players.

“To me, that’s part of the problem,” Parks said. “We split our girls up over the summer, which I don’t understand why we do that. You could take the best girls from UHS, MHS and Clay-Battelle and build something, but it’s not done like that here and I don’t understand why.”

As for the game, the Monarchs dominated. Carli Lightner hit a grand slam in the second inning that gave John Marshall a 7-0 lead.

“Once they hit that grand slam, you could see the life go out of our girls,” Parks said. “I tried to keep them motivated, but we shut down.”

Mackenzie Hall and Anna Blake each had three hits for JMHS.

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