This is the fifth in a series of six articles profiling the Seneca Valley Sports Hall of Fame's Class of 2020. The ceremony was postponed last year due to COVID-19.
On May 16, 1998, members of Seneca Valley's softball team took the field for a WPIAL playoff game with heavy hearts.
Two days before, Brianne Morgan, a former SV softball star who graduated in 1996, had collapsed and died while jogging near her home in Evans City.
“It shook us all,” said George Trew, then an assistant coach with the Raiders. “Personality, work ethic, ability ... Brianne was as good as it gets.”
The team, still stunned, dedicated that day's game against Ellwood City to Morgan. Junior pitcher Julie Purvis pitched a no-hitter with 15 strikeouts in a 4-0 victory while wearing Morgan's No. 13. Purvis did so, she said, because she wanted to emulate her former teammate.
Athletic ability alone can't endear a person to a program to that degree. Morgan's personality and treatment of others left an indelible impression on those who knew her.
“She had a great sense of humor and was quick-witted,” Morgan's mother, Helena, said of her daughter. “She was a friend to everybody. So many of her friends make sure to keep her memory alive.”
One is Stephani Ehrenfeld, a former teammate of Morgan's on Robert Morris College's softball team who named her daughter after Brianne.
On the field, Morgan was an outstanding player. A shortstop for the Raiders, she batted over .500 twice, including .560 her junior year. She earned four letters and was named all-section three times.
“Softball was her life,” Helena Morgan said. “When she was called up to the varsity team, that meant the world to her.”
Brianne Morgan will be posthumously inducted into the Seneca Valley Sports Hall of Fame Saturday night.
In a game against North Allegheny her junior year, Morgan had two hits, including a two-run home run, in a win over the Tigers. That's just one snippet from a scholastic career that was filled with similar efforts.
“She was always coming up with big hits,” said Trew. “I've been involved in a lot of different sports and even coached kids who went on to play in the NFL and the Major Leagues. Brianne is one of the best athletes I ever coached.”
Morgan was also eager to pass on her knowledge of the sport.
“She took the time to help her teammates and was just tremendous, a great leader,” added Trew. “My son, Ben, was a few years younger than Brianne and he idolized her. They became good friends. I remember her staying after practice to help Ben break in his new glove.”
Morgan also played guard on Seneca Valley's girls basketball team. While softball was clearly her best sport, she could always be counted on to give 100 percent on the court.
“Her work ethic was something that sticks out for me,” said Megan Meeder, a basketball teammate of Morgan's in high school. “She was the kid on the floor who had the mind-set that she wasn't going to get beat.”
Morgan was a junior during Todd Schoeffel's first season as SV girls basketball coach.
“She put the time in during conditioning and played defense with tenacity,” he said.
That was exemplified during a game against Butler in February 1995. Needing a win to clinch a playoff spot, the Raiders used a ress defense for much of the game. Morgan's effort against Butler star Erin Ward was crucial in a 46-39 victory.
Morgan went on to star at Robert Morris, where she moved to third base and was named all-conference twice. She batted .338 in her two seasons with the Colonials and was inducted into the RMU Hall of Fame in 2002.
“I went down to watch her play,” Schoeffel said. “It's so unfortunate what happened to her. I have no doubt that she would have set records at Robert Morris.”
Over 23 years have past since Morgan lit up a room with her presence. But for those who knew her best, memories of her remain strong.
“She had a smile on her face all the time,” Schoeffel said. “She loved being around that group of kids. They were all good friends.”
Brianne's parents, Gary and Helena, plan to accept their daughter's induction.
“I'm not sure who nominated Brianne, but I'm very grateful they did,” said Helena Morgan. “I'm really proud of Brianne and she would be very honored.”