By Blake Baxter
EUREKA – Morgan Ledbetter is still planning to have an encore to her record-setting debut season at Eureka College.
Next spring, she'll be student teaching and finishing up her degree in elementary education, but she says she'll do everything she can to get on the field as much as possible.
"It's close to 100 percent," Ledbetter said of a possible return. "I'm going to make it work, let's just say that."
If it all works out, her teammates will be thrilled to have her back for one more go-around after the abbreviated 2020 campaign.
In 2019, Ledbetter – then a junior transfer from Culver-Stockton – donned maroon and gold for the first time and helped lead the Red Devils to program history.
Eureka captured its first-ever St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference league and tournament titles and clinched an NCAA Division III Tournament berth for only the second time.
Lately, past social media posts have offered visual reminders of those heights as the one-year anniversary for each feat has rolled along.
"I've just been spending all of my time reflecting on everything that we did last year," Ledbetter said. "The team group chat always sends pictures of everything. It's honestly been sad, because it could be happening right now."
The first baseman's powerful and timely bat played an immense role in the Red Devils' unforgettable, historic run last year. Many of the numbers she put up were simply unprecedented, and so were a lot of the accolades that she collected along the way.
In 35 games, Ledbetter recorded a .526 batting average, .565 on-base percentage and a 1.070 slugging percentage with 60 hits, 58 RBIs, 31 runs, 17 home runs, 11 doubles and eight walks.
She led Division III in home runs per game (.49) and in RBIs per game (1.66), and was second in the nation in slugging percentage (1.070). She broke EC assistant coach Kelli Dunne's single-season program home run record toward the end of the regular season, then broke Dunne's program record for career home runs during the SLIAC Tournament.
After the season ended, 5-foot-10 slugger from Hanna City received First Team All-America honors. She and teammate Sydney Shubert became the first Red Devils to receive postseason All-America honors since 1993.
Ledbetter also earned First Team All-SLIAC honors, was named the SLIAC Tournament MVP and was selected to the NCAA Division III Whitewater, Wisconsin All-Tournament Team.
"I didn't know it was going to turn out the way it did," Ledbetter said. "Honestly, I didn't have any clue."
When Ledbetter first transferred to Eureka, she was coming off two generally frustrating seasons at Culver-Stockton in which she never quite found a comfortable fit.
After a prolific three-sport high school career at Elmwood that featured three all-state softball honors and two trips to the state tournament, she struggled to reach her lofty expectations.
At Eureka, though, she obliterated them, often while delighting crowds with towering long balls that soared well over outfield fences.
Ledbetter delivered eight home runs in the last 11 games of the season and produced four dingers in three games at the SLIAC Tournament, culminating in her tournament MVP honor.
"It really meant a lot because I was able to bounce back from the rough season at my previous school," she said. "I was able to have the season I ultimately wanted in college, and I had fun doing it.
"I was able to experience all of that – and do it with my team."