South Hagerstown's Potter settles score in final year of pitching for Wilson College
Someday soon, Megan Potter will have to fully grasp those two words.
The end of a sparkling pitching career at Wilson College is imminent.
“It’s bittersweet,” said Potter, now a graduate student. “I’m beyond excited to be in this part of the season, but it’s also kind of sad because I realize every game I play could be my last and I’m not sure exactly when that is going to come.
“I’ve lived my dream here for the last six years — five years playing ball. That timeline is kind of scary for me because I’m not ready to end it just yet, so we have to keep winning.”
Potter, a South Hagerstown graduate, at least has this weekend remaining. She will be in the circle for the Phoenix on Friday when they face Christopher Newport University — the No. 1-ranked team in Division III — in an opening-round game of the NCAA regional tournament in Newport News, Va.
She has at least two more games left in her record-setting career at the double-elimination tournament.
For Potter, it’s the closing chapter of a career extended by eligibility waivers granted for the COVID-19 pandemic. She has posted 818 strikeouts in 121 appearances (92 starts) and 631 1/3 innings to date, good for a 76-22 record with five saves and a 1.71 ERA.
But it’s also been a time to learn that dreams come at a cost. There have been huge highs and crushing disappointments. The school's mascot has become symbolic for her journey.
“I honestly say that I channeled the energy of our Phoenix — rising from the ashes … always staying fired up … rising above everybody and everything else and keeping that mentality, especially after what happened last season.”
The NCAA berth — Wilson’s second in a three-year span, and also its second ever — has become the crowning achievement of Potter’s stay while setting the record straight for Wilson’s team, program and her career.
“This season we had a hashtag #revengetour,” she said. “We were on a mission to show we are a force this year, to make it known we are a force to be reckoned with and you can’t knock us out.”
Building an identity
This trip to the national tournament has become the crown jewel in a year of redemption.
Wilson played in the 2019 national tournament after winning the Colonial States Athletic Conference title, finishing with a 27-8-2 record. Potter was named pitcher of the year and finished with a 20-5 record, including two losses in the regional. She had 17 wins and 177 strikeouts in league play.
“Last time we were going, we were just happy to be there,” Potter said. “We didn’t care what happened.”
The shelf life of the “happy stage” ended last season.
A wave of “disrespect” and setbacks hampered Potter and the team in 2021, ultimately crushing the Phoenix in an unceremonious end.
That season was supposed to be Potter’s swan song.
“I knew that I didn’t want to end my career there,” she said. “I had a choice and I was determined to not only redeem myself but also our program to show our conference that just like a Phoenix, we do rise up. We do rise up against everything. We were better than that.
“This season was all about redemption.”
Heads will roll
In 2021, Potter put up a Phoenix-like season.
A Phoenix, by one of its definitions, is "a person or thing so excellent as to have no equal or match."
She was a force in the circle for Wilson. Potter was 14-1 with 118 strikeouts and a 1.20 ERA. But the CSAC wasn’t impressed.
“Last year, a lot happened to our program,” she said. “Our team was clicking the way it needed to, but our conference had a hard time accepting us because we are fairly new to it.
“Everyone expected me to get pitcher of the year. I was pitcher of the week four out of the six weeks and I dominated the statistics and the leaderboards. But when the vote came out, I (wasn’t selected) and someone else who wasn’t close on the leaderboard was voted that honor.”
Potter was at a loss.
“I was devastated. I was crushed. I didn’t understand why,” she said. “My coach had to convince me that it wasn’t because of me, it was because there was a vendetta against Wilson.”
Everything hit a low point when the Phoenix sputtered at the least opportune time. Wilson lost in the CSAC final to Cedar Crest, ending a 24-5 season short of its goal.
“That kind of fed into our championship run (this year),” she said. “We felt so disrespected by our conference and we had other issues going on inside of our team. When we got to that final push of the championship game in 2021, we kind of just fell apart.”
The whole experience left a bad taste in Potter’s mouth.
“To me, it was if you don’t want to give me pitcher of the year, I’ll show you what a pitcher of the year is,” she said. “That’s why I came back to prove it one more time.”
This season was all about setting the record straight, and Potter was true to her word about proving she was snubbed.
The #revengetour was the name, but it was more of a rallying point for the Phoenix.
“We weren’t saying, ‘We’re going out there to get these guys,’” she said. “We were out there playing for the game — the real reason why (we play) — and to prove we are what everyone says we’re not.
“I’m always looking to get better. That was the goal. To get one percent better every day.”
Still, something wasn’t right with the Phoenix.
“This season, our team had so many highs and lows,” Potter said. “At one point, I didn’t think we would even be a contender for our conference championship because of injuries and little things going on with the team. I was like, ‘I don’t know why I came back for this.’
“We hit a turning point and we beat this really good school — a non-conference school — and we just all clicked. We were all on the same page and we rose up to take the challenge that I don’t think anybody in our conference thought we could do. Then I realized that we got this. Our team was all about dedication and determination and proving people wrong every day.”
Potter added to her pitching résumé, capped on April 27 by winning two games against Notre Dame (Md.) University.
In the opener, Potter pitched her second perfect game in an 11-0 five-inning win.
In the nightcap, she entered the game in the second inning with Wilson trailing 7-3 and pitched five innings of relief in a 15-7 comeback victory. She opened the sixth inning with a strikeout — her final one of the day — giving her 800 in her career.
Wilson won 13 of its last 15 games — including a 4-2 win over Rosemont College last Sunday to win the CSAC championship to earn the bid to return to the national tournament.
Potter got her redemption with a 10-1 conference record, a 0.70 ERA, 114 strikeouts and one walk in 70 innings to be voted to the CSAC first team and earn the coveted pitcher of the year honor.
Entering the regional, Potter is 15-2 with a 0.96 ERA in 116 1/3 innings. She has pitched four shutouts.
One last objective
Most of Wilson’s boxes are checked on the #revengetour list.
Potter and the Phoenix enter their second shot in the national tournament with a different vibe.
“I would say we feel more seasoned … more matured,” Potter said. “Now we are facing the No. 1 seed in the country. Everyone is doubting us. … We aren’t shying away from any challenge.
“We aren’t going in just happy to be there. We are going in to win some ballgames and hopefully move on. We’re out of the honeymoon stage and we are ready to step it up and make a name for ourselves.”
It will be a difficult task, considering Christopher Newport enters the game with a 37-1 record.
For Potter, her pitching career hangs in the balance. Her eligibility runs out at the same time as the Phoenix’s luck.
Still, there’s one last accomplishment to address.
“My final career goal — and my goal for the rest of the season — is to keep winning and go as far as we can,” she said. “But my ultimate goal now, as I come to the tail end, is to bring Wilson’s first regional (game) win in school history in any sport. That’s the goal this weekend — get the win. It doesn’t matter against who, it doesn’t matter when, but bring a win back from that tournament to the school.”
When the postseason ends, the beginnings of her post-softball life are set.
She will leave with a masters degree in education, although she’ll miss this weekend’s graduation ceremony.
“We will do a commencement for the softball and baseball teams when we get back,” she said.
Then Potter will begin teaching seventh-grade English at Hagerstown’s Northern Middle School and will hopefully start coaching softball.
All that comes after Potter comes to grips with “The End,” but the trip to the national tournament will help.
“I think that will be a fitting conclusion to a legendary career that I’ve been a part of," she said. “Just doing one last thing like that will be the cherry on top.”