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ET Softball: West Rusk's Morton suiting up for New Zealand in showcase

By Jack Stallard
July 22, 2017 at 10:14 p.m.

West Rusk's Makana Morton pitches against White Oak this past season at LeTourneau.

Makana Morton's busy summer heats up in a big way on Monday when the West Rusk High School junior gets a taste of international competition.

Ironically, Morton — an all-American, East Texas kid who has carved out a gaudy .645 average to go along with 20 pitching wins for West Rusk in her first two high school seasons — won't be suiting up for the United States during the upcoming week.

Morton, who is a citizen off both the United States and New Zealand, will play for New Zealand's national team — the Junior White Sox — Monday through July 31 at the World Baseball Softball Confederation Junior Women's World Championships in Clearwater, Florida.

"My friends are calling me a traitor since I'm not playing for America, but they have been very supportive of me," Morton said with a laugh.

Makana's father, Dr. Bill Morton, is also her coach at West Rusk. Her mother, Rowena, grew up in Timaru, on the south island's east coast and is a former New Zealand track star

"I'm a little nervous, but I think I'll do well. It's the biggest honor you could have, really. It's so crazy to think this actually happened," Makana said of playing in the national event. "I'll get to play at a high level, and it gives me an opportunity to see how they play in different parts of the country."

The West Rusk standout had a breakout freshman season in 2016, hitting .656 with five home runs, 21 doubles, four triples, 38 RBIs, 44 stolen bases and 40 runs scored to go along with a 9-4 pitching record, a 2.80 earned run average and 109 strikeouts.

She followed with a sophomore season that saw her hit .663 with 12 home runs, 24 doubles, two triples, 67 RBIs, 55 stolen bases and 52 runs scored while going 11-3 inside the circle with a 1.35 ERA and 101 strikeouts.

Since the opening of the high school softball season through the summer, Makana's year has been filled with travel and softball games. West Rusk played 32 games during the high school season, and her father estimates she's played 75-80 games this summer.

So far.

Before heading to Florida, Makana played in a showcase tournament in Plano with her Blaze travel team. Following the event this week in Florida, she's off to Normal, Illinois where she'll meet back up with her Blaze teammates for the ASA National Tournament.

"As a dad, you want your children to get as much life experience as they can before they actually leave the nest, and as an athlete this is theh best you can do as varied competition and experience," Bill Morton said of the Junior World Championships. "As her coach, I'm glad she'll get to experience the game at a higher level. It's different than select ball or even college ball with some of the different rules. Also, the fence is 220 feet all the way around. That's just one of the obstacles she'll have to deal with and move on."

With two seasons of high school eligibility remaining, Makana is already drawing interest and gotten offers from several schools. In the mix so far are Arkansas-Monticello, Arkansas Tech, Missouri, Memphis, SFA, Central Arkansas, Louisiana-Monroe, Louisiana Tech, Central Arkansas and East Central Oklahoma.

For now, however, Makana is concentrating on helping New Zealand win a championship, and the all-state utility player will be able to help in several ways.

"I'll be a utility player for New Zealand," she said. "I'll pitch and play middle infield. I can play anywhere except catcher. They just told me to be ready to play."

This year's tournament will feature 26 national teams. Days 1-4 will feature round-robin, pool play action. Days 5-6 will be bracket action. The Gold Medal game is set for July 30.

New Zealand will compete in a pool that includes Puerto Rico, the Czech Republic, the Dominican Republic, India and Argentina.

(Follow Jack Stallard on Twitter: @lnjsports).



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