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Three local softball players sign with Marshall

Nov. 19, 2012 @ 11:32 PM

ONA -- According to NCAA statistics taken during the 2011 season, there were 389,867 high school softball players across the United States.

Of those players, only 5,761 signed Division I scholarships -- a ratio of 1.47 percent of all high school players.

Therefore, to be moving on to the Division I level is special enough.

Signing to play Division I softball with two of your best friends, that's a feeling difficult to put in words for Cabell Midland High School players Morgan Kelley and Morgan Zerkle and Wayne High School player Jessica Watts -- who all signed Friday with Marshall University.

They staggered their ceremonies to they could attend each other's signings.

"Not many best friends get the opportunity to play in college together, and it's just really special that we get to do that," Kelley said.

A close bond was built between them while playing in high school and on the Mountain Thunder summer travel team. They've been virtually inseparable the past several years.

And, it isn't just confined to the girls. As Dallas Kelley got ready to speak on what the signings of Zerkle and Watts meant in addition to his own daughter's, he choked back tears and paused.

In an instant, Pressley Adkins, the head coach of the Mountain Thunder, got up and consoled him long enough for Dallas Kelley to say the fathers have all built a brotherly bond with Adkins, and that relationship will continue through college.

Whether it was Morgan Kelley fielding hours worth of ground balls at first base, Zerkle -- the Knights' stellar third basemen -- learning how to hit from the left side or Watts, Wayne's standout shortstop, showing the consistency to not only lead her team to a state championship, but also become the first Wayne player since 2000 to sign a Division I scholarship for softball, every one of the girls overcame difficulties to make it to where they are today.

"We've gone through the same workouts and everything together so we knew what each other was feeling," Watts said. "We just clicked and started hanging out off the field. Since then, we became best friends."

The combination of Zerkle and Kelley has become known as M&M -- Zerkle throwing from third base and Kelley completing the out with her trademark stretch at first base.

Now, just like in summer ball, there is going to be a lot of 'W' thrown into the mix with Watts also on the infield.

The trio has been like family for years as they've traveled together, worked out together and put the sweat and blood into excelling in their sport.

They've become family, although before, it was always an unofficial softball family.

Now, it's official.

They are part of the Thundering Herd family.

It's an aspect the girls are extremely proud of because Marshall softball has proven it can compete on the national level with homegrown talent.

"That's one of the main reasons we wanted to go to Marshall -- to stay close to this community," Zerkle said. "It wouldn't be the same if we went somewhere else and played."

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