A teenager who had to wait in the wings for four years to become the Lady Longhorn softball team's No. 1 starter has received a collegiate athletic scholarship.
Payson High School senior Morgan O'Haver was awarded the scholarship to Paradise Valley Community College by Lady Puma coach James Gibbs.
"He came up here (to Payson) and watched me pitch," O'Haver said. "Later he told me he was convinced I could help the PVCC team."
Lady Horn coach Will Dunman has little doubt she will provide the boost Gibbs is looking for in the team's fourth year of existence.
"She does whatever she can for the team and then some," he said. "She has the heart of a champion."
O'Haver said she has some anxieties about leaving PHS and moving on to college, but is ready for the challenge.
"I know (college) will be different, but I have my plans made and I'm set to go," she said.
At PVCC, she will major in elementary education with hopes of someday teaching and possibly coaching softball on the high school level.
O'Haver's chance to shine on the mound for PHS and have the opportunity to earn a softball scholarship was a long time in coming.
Although she was a four-year letter winner, she didn't become the team's pitching ace until the past season. During her freshman and sophomore seasons, she was the No. 3 pitcher behind Rachel Ray and Brenna Zumbro. Both also hurled their way to collegiate scholarships.
In 2004, after Ray graduated, O'Haver moved up to No. 2 behind Zumbro.
She said waiting for her opportunity was worth it because she realized Ray and Zumbro were two of the finest pitchers in the state and she could learn from them.
"But when this season came, I was ready to start," she said.
In compiling a 15-6 record, O'Haver led the Lady Horns to a second-place finish in the 4A Grand Canyon Region and a berth in the state tournament.
Relying on change-ups, drop balls, rise pitches and fastballs, she mowed down opposing hitters on strikes or fooled them into hitting routine grounders to the infield.
During her first three years on the team, O'Haver was one of the Lady Horns' most consistent hitters and a steady outfielder.
Early this season, however, Dunman had to limit her playing time in the outfield because of a hand injury known as "Skier's Thumb" -- a malady in which ligaments have been stretched.
"Batting aggravated the injury and we needed her for pitching, so she didn't get to the plate as much as she did in past years," Dunman said.
At the conclusion of the season, O'Haver was named to the all-region team as a pitcher.
According to Dunman, part of O'Haver's success can be attributed to her dedication and year-round devotion to the sport.
In middle school and as a freshman she excelled in softball, but was also a promising young basketball player.
Entering her sophomore year, she gave up basketball to focus all her energy on softball.
"I wanted to see how well I could do in (softball)," she said.
Now that her high school career is at an end and graduation is just around the corner, O'Haver looks back with fond memories.
"It's been a lot of work, but also fun," she said. "I'll always remember all the great things that happened."
She's also grateful to all those who helped her excel and earn the scholarship.
"I would like to thank all of those who supported in both school and softball," she said. "My coaches, my parents, family, and the community were all there to help me."