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Verrado grads making impact at Wagner College

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Casey Pritchard's picture
MORGAN BROWN, a 2014 graduate of Verrado High School, throws a pitch for Wagner College against Drexel University April 18. Brown won 11 games for Wagner during her junior season, helping the Seahawks win a playoff game for the first time since 2007. Photo by Dave Saffran
MORGAN BROWN, a 2014 graduate of Verrado High School, throws a pitch for Wagner College against Drexel University April 18. Brown won 11 games for Wagner during her junior season, helping the Seahawks win a playoff game for the first time since 2007. Photo by Dave Saffran

Brown, Serrato help school win 1st playoff game in 10 years

It wasn’t an ideal start to the 2017 softball season for Wagner University, a Division I school in New York, but a pair of Verrado graduates helped the Seahawks rebound and win their first postseason game in a decade.

Morgan Brown, a 2014 Verrado graduate, and Lauren Serrato, a 2015 Verrado graduate, played integral roles for Wagner as it went 22-25. Wagner started the year 0-10, but turned it around and wound up beating Sacred Heart University in the first round of the Northeast Conference (NEC) tournament. That was Wagner’s first playoff win since 2007.

It was huge,” Serrato said of winning a postseason game. “When I committed, I knew the past nine, 10 years, they had really tough seasons, they had a losing record, and that’s kind of why I wanted to go in there, try to be part of the difference.”

Wagner went 20-29 in 2016, 4-12 in the NEC, and was picked eighth out of nine teams in this year’s preseason conference rankings, Serrato said. The outlook appeared bleak when the Seahawks went 0-5 in a season-opening tournament in North Carolina, then lost five more in a row, including four in the Utah State tournament.

It was a pretty rough start,” Brown said. “We brought in 11 new girls — we had 10 freshmen and one transfer come in. It was kind of a slow start to get the team clicking, because six of our nine starters were freshmen. So, we had to adjust and figure out how we play together. We just needed to find a way to click, and luckily, we did by the time the important games came around.”

Brown pitched Wagner to its first victory of the season, which came against Southern Utah University on the final day of the Utah State tournament. Brown pitched six innings, allowing seven hits and three runs, while striking out three. Wagner won 5-3.

It was like a switch, that one game we finally all played together,” Serrato said. “It was exciting we won, just realizing we lost 10 other games we totally could have won. That was definitely a turning point.”

The season went much better from there, as Wagner played above .500 the rest of the year, tying Sacred Heart for second in the conference with a 10-6 record. The Seahawks beat Sacred Heart twice in the NEC tournament to get to the championship, but lost to St. Francis University in the final game, 11-2.

They [St. Francis] went undefeated, which had never been done before [in the NEC],” Brown said. “So, they were definitely pretty good.”

Brown said one of the main reasons Wagner was able to turn around its season was because of the pitching.

We needed to figure it out on the mound, because our hitters were doing well, our defense was good enough, but we needed to figure out pitching and how to hit our spots and work the corners,” Brown said.

Brown also put a lot on her shoulders, as she had a tremendous sophomore campaign for Wagner, but struggled at the start of her junior year.

I felt like, because I had a pretty good sophomore year, that I wanted to come back better than the year before,” Brown said. “I was pressuring myself so much that I had a little difficulty dividing the mental side of the game and the physical part. So, I got in my head a little bit, but my coach [Angie Churchill] calmed me down and reminded me of what our goal was for the season and that I’m good enough to do it.”

Churchill said it was just a matter of telling Brown to relax.

I told her, ‘The pressure is not all on your shoulders, Morgan. I don’t expect you to go out there and strikeout everybody,’” Churchill said. “She’s got the stuff to get strikeouts, but she was putting way too much pressure on herself to strike everybody out. Once she calmed down and relaxed a little bit, and trusted her stuff and trusted herself, then she started winning.”

Brown finished 2017 with an 11-8 record and 4.46 ERA. In 124 innings, she struck out 75.

As a sophomore, Brown only went 7-15, but had a 3.56 ERA and struck out 102 batters in 139.2 innings. That strikeout mark is the second highest single-season total in Wagner history.

A big thing that I look at now, my stats were better my sophomore year than junior year, but I would much rather take my junior year because we won more games and the team had a lot more success,” Brown said.

Churchill said she really likes Brown’s leadership skills, and thinks Brown will have a really good senior season.

I can’t say enough about Morgan,” Churchill said. “She really wants to be great, and she puts the work in to do that. She puts, not only the physical work in, but the mental work. That’s really tough to find this day and age, and she’s that kid. She’s been a huge part of our success my first two years.”

Lauren Serrato

Serrato is an outfielder, and started 41 of the team’s 49 games her freshman season. She batted .281 and had a .392 on-base percentage, walking 17 times. Of her 34 hits, four were doubles and one was a home run, and she scored 23 runs.

She had a great freshman year once she earned her spot,” Churchill said.

As a sophomore, Serrato struggled at the beginning of the season and lost her starting job.

I started the first tournament in North Carolina and I did terrible, I went 0 for 12, I think,” Serrato said. “Rightfully so, my coach took me out and put in a freshman. For about half the season, I didn’t play.”

Despite not playing, Serrato didn't get down on herself, or her teammates.

Lauren is one of those kids that you wouldn’t be able to tell she wasn’t starting because she doesn’t pout, she doesn’t sit there and be a bad teammate, she cheers for the people that are playing over her,” Churchill said. “She’s that type of kid who’s a great teammate and a great person, outside of being a good softball athlete.”

Not playing was tough on Serrato, she said. She was used to playing every day in high school and on her club team.

But, it definitely made me realize how much I love playing and made me want to work harder, but still not be down on my other teammates, knowing I’d get another chance,” Serrato said.

That opportunity came about halfway through the season, as her replacement started to slump, so Serrato was inserted back into the starting lineup, she said.

My coach put me back in and I hit a triple my first at bat,” Serrato said. “I think that speaks to players that when they’re taken out, they’re so down on themselves that it makes the whole camaraderie miserable, and I just try to be positive and make the best out of it.”

Serrato finished the regular season batting .319, but slowed a bit in the postseason and ended the year at .290. She hit her lone home run of the season in the championship game, and wound up with 20 hits, 12 runs scored and nine RBI.

She got her shot again this year and had an outstanding year,” Churchill said.

Serrato had a big hit to start a rally against Robert Morris in a crucial game late in the season, Churchill said. It wound up helping Wagner win the game and make the postseason.

She’s that kind of spark player for us,” Churchill said. “She’s not afraid of the moment, she wants to be good, and I think she’s really starting to get it, like what that means, and she has some confidence in herself now. She’s a great player and a great kid and I expect her to keep excelling moving forward.”

Long time teammates

Since both Brown and Serrato played together at Verrado, they have a deep connection.

It’s really nice because me and Lauren had a really good friendship when we were in high school,” Brown said. “She knows what I can do and I know what she can do. With the mental aspect of everything and being so far away from home, it’s nice to have a piece of home with me there. So, whenever she’ll get homesick or whenever I get homesick, we’re always there for each other and we know how to talk to each other and get through stuff.”

Brown is studying biopsychology at Wagner, while Serrato is majoring in English with a minor in journalism.

Both players are already looking forward to next season after a strong finish this year. Wagner lost five seniors, two of whom played a big role, Brown said. However, it has five new freshmen coming in.

Last year, our goal was to make it to our conference tournament, and this year, it’s going to be to win our conference tournament,” Brown said. “We’ve seen the playoff atmosphere and we know what the No. 1 team, St. Francis, has, and we’re going to attack it and prepare all year for it. There’s no reason we shouldn’t make it back [to playoffs].”

Serrato said she feels like Wagner has a target on its back now because of this season’s success.

We went from second to last to second to best,” Serrato said. “I’m excited, and I think everyone else should be, too … Morgan is going to have to step up a lot, too. She’s going to be our No. 1 pitcher, and I think she’s going to do great. I think we can definitely get back to where we were, and hopefully come out on top this year.”

 

Casey Pritchard can be reached at caseypritchard@westvalleyview.com
or on Twitter @CaseyonSports.

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