Concord connection: Former Tide standouts put bow on Plymouth State careers

  • Concord native and Plymouth State University outfielder Debra Morrill fires in a throw during a ballgame in April. Courtesy of Mike Gridley

  • Plymouth State University outfielder and Concord native Cassidy Emerson takes off on the bases during a Little East Conference game against UMass Dartmouth at St. Anselm College South Athletics Field in Goffstown on April 14. Mike Gridley / Courtesy

  • Plymouth State’s Cassidy Emerson prepares for an at-bat against UMass Dartmouth during a Little East Conference game at Saint Anselm College South Athletics Field in Goffstown on April 14. Mike Gridley / Courtesy

  • Plymouth State outfielder and Concord native Debra Morrill takes a lead off second base during a Little East Conference contest against UMass Dartmouth at Saint Anselm College South Athletics Field in Goffstown on April 14. Photos courtesy of Mike Gridley

Monitor staff
Published: 5/15/2019 10:37:33 PM

They’ve shared the field together for more than a decade, from their playing days at Rundlett Middle School up through Concord High and now in their final stretch at Plymouth State University. For Cassidy Emerson and Debra Morrill, it’s hard to remember the last time they weren’t teammates.

“It’s great because you have a teammate and you have a friend for life at that point,” said Morrill, who like Emerson, has been a standout two-sport athlete at PSU over the last four years. “You play sports with someone your whole life and you just get closer and closer as the years go along.”

That Concord connection of Morrill and Emerson has provided a major lift for the Panthers over the years, both on the basketball court and on the softball field where the two became impact players shortly after their arrival to campus in 2015. The duo was always active in sports growing up, playing soccer and basketball together and joining forces on summer travel ball teams before blossoming into bright spots for Concord High softball under longtime coach Duke Sawyer.

With Emerson in the outfield and Morrill at shortstop, the Tide was a perennial contender in Division I, reaching the title game during the pair’s sophomore season in 2013 before bowing out to Timberlane.

“(Concord) was so good and we did so well and ended up losing in the championship and it’s like still the only thing I remember about high school sports,” said Emerson, whose sister Molly serves as an assistant coach at Concord High. “I don’t know what it is, it’s always that loss. It always gets me.”

While the loss still stings, Emerson did add that her time with the Tide played a huge factor in getting her ready for softball with the Panthers. But there was still no preparing either for what it would be like to truly go through the grind each day in the Little East Conference and leave the friendly bubble of Concord behind.

“Playing in high school, it’s like you get totally comfortable ... and then you come to college and it’s like you don’t know anyone,” Emerson said. “You’re meeting a whole new team, trying out for a whole new coach. Pretty much all of my freshman year, it was like I get put in and was thinking, ‘Oh no, I don’t want to mess up because I’m a freshman that’s playing at the college level.’ ”

Having a familiar face around certainly helped.

“It’s an advantage to have someone that I played with for so long coming with me as well,” Emerson said of Morrill.

Both Emerson and Morrill managed to get playing time almost immediately for the PSU softball team, eventually settling into everyday roles for the Panthers as their careers progressed.

But a torn rotator cuff cut Morrill’s junior season short and set off a sequence of events that resulted in the shortstop being moved to the outfield for her senior season.

“I knew I wasn’t able to make the same plays as well I used to be able to and I had to accept that,” Morrill said of her injury. “From a mental spot, I had to tell myself that I could still perform and that I’d be in the lineup hopefully if I went to the outfield and did what coach wanted.”

When Morrill made the move to the outfield, she found herself in a familiar place – right next to Emerson.

“She knows where I would be for the cutoff when I was in the infield, and when I went to the outfield, I was confident that she could get to a ball or I could get to it,” Morrill said. “We always knew how each other played and it helped us get to some balls that might have been in the gap.”

With both players clicking this past season, Plymouth State (22-18) put together a fine year. The Panthers reached the 20-win mark for the third consecutive season and nearly played themselves into the LEC championship game earlier this month before falling to Eastern Connecticut, 1-0, in the semifinals.

Emerson, who finished her senior season with a .264 average, 17 runs scored and 13 RBI, went 130 career games without a home run before sending one over the fence during the second day of the LEC Tournament against Southern Maine.

The home run sparked a first-inning rally and helped the Panthers avoid elimination.

“That was a complete shock to me,” Emerson said. “I was not expecting that at all. I kind of don’t really even remember the moment because I was so surprised.

“I waited four years (to do it) in an elimination game,” Emerson joked.

Morrill, meanwhile, finished up her career as one of PSU’s top hitters in her final season after batting .336. She produced 38 hits, including six doubles, scored 24 runs and swiped 10 bags.

“I just felt like I developed so much more as an athlete over the last few years when I got moved to the outfield. I got to develop more skills that I really hadn’t at shortstop,” Morrill said. “And confidence at the plate was big, too. I came in freshman year and I barely hit over .200 and this year I was one of the leaders in batting average.”

As their time as teammates comes to a close with graduation on the way, one thing is certain: They’ve enjoyed every single second of the ride.

“I’ve pretty much gotten everything I wanted out of (college),” Emerson said. “I’ve made so many friends, have had the best experiences in going up to Florida for softball or a few overnights for basketball with a New York tournament. It’s just little stuff like that and so I’ve really enjoyed my athletic career.”

(Jay McAree can be reached at 369-3371, or on Twitter @JayMcAree.)

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