Tag Archives: high school softball

Summertown trio signs college scholarships

SM-Tn Sports

Three Summertown athletes signed national letters of intent Wednesday as the NCAA fall recruiting period officially opened.

Claire Woods, a three-sport athlete for the Lady Eagles, inked a softball scholarship with Middle Tennessee State, while multi-sport classmates Hailey Jones and Kaley Campbell signed with North Alabama and Austin Peay, respectively — Jones for softball, Campbell for golf.

Summertown’s Claire Woods signed a softball scholarship Wednesday with Middle Tennessee State. (Courtesy photo)

Woods, a pitcher/third baseman, joins the Lady Raiders as the top-ranked signee in their fall recruiting class, listed at No. 117 overall in the Extra Inning Softball top 200. She is listed as the 64th-best pitcher in the country in the Extra Elite Player Rankings, making her No. 6 among Conference USA signees and second in Tennessee.

At the time of her verbal commitment, Scout Softball had Woods ranked as the third-best uncommitted pitcher in the nation.

Through three seasons at Summertown High School, Woods has a 1.10 ERA with 307 strikeouts in 255 innings pitched. In addition to her work in the circle, Woods boasts a .459 batting average with 14 homers. She was named All-District Pitcher of the Year as a freshman and District MVP as a sophomore. Woods qualified for the Small Class State Championships in cross country and also lettered in basketball for two years.

“We think she may be the best pitcher we’ve recruited here,” MTSU coach Jeff Breeden said in announcing his recruiting class, which also includes Siegel infielder Claire Czajkowski, Macon County utility player Abby Shoulders and Anyce Harvey, an outfielder from Hewitt-Trussville (Ala.).

“She throws in the mid-60s, and she’s thought in the travel ball circles to be in the top five percent of pitchers in America. We’ll give her an opportunity, and we’ll see how far she can take us.”

Summertown’s Hailey Jones signed a softball scholarship Wednesday with North Alabama. (Courtesy photo)

Jones started as a freshman on Summertown’s 2018 Class A state title team and was a starter on the 2019 team that finished as state runner-up. She’s also been a key performer on the Lady Eagles’ consecutive Class A state championship volleyball teams, and plays basketball as well.

Campbell earned four straight individual and team region golf titles, with Summertown taking home three Small Class state titles during her tenure. She claimed the 2018 Small Class individual title, shooting a two-day 148 to win by six strokes.

Summertown’s Kaley Campbell signed a golf scholarship Wednesday with Austin Peay State University. (Courtesy photo)

On the junior golf circuit, she was the 2019 SNEDS Junior Golf Tour Player of the Year in the Girls age 16-18 category, winning five of seven tour events in which she participated that summer. 

“Kaley is a consistent player that brings a calming presence to those around her,” APSU coach Jessica Combs said. “She never stops grinding on or off the golf course, whether it’s battling an injury or needing to birdie the last hole to win. We are so excited to have her on the team, and I’m looking forward to watching her improve during her time in Clarksville.”

In addition to being a four-time All-State performer on the course, she also helped lead the Lady Eagles to the 2018 Class A softball state title and a runner-up finish in 2019. She was selected as the 2018 Middle Tennessee Class A/Division II Miss Softball by the Tennessee Softball Coaches Association, and was a member of the 2018 Class A basketball state runner-up squad. Following a knee injury that cut her junior season short, she is expected to return to the court this season.

Mitchell’s softball journey takes her to Carson-Newman

By Chris Yow

Journey Mitchell’s path to college softball wasn’t filled with accolades or much fanfare.

The senior has taken a business-like approach as both a pitcher and first baseman throughout her three-year career at Columbia Academy, and put up steady numbers to help her team to a state title in 2019.

On the first day of the NCAA fall signing period, Mitchell inked a scholarship to play at Carson-Newman University during a Wednesday ceremony held in the chapel at CA.

Mitchell was poised to be the team’s ace in the circle last season, but the reigning Class A state titlists did not get the opportunity to repeat in Division II-A due to COVID-19. CA coach Seth Anderson is looking for her to be a leader of his squad in 2021.

“Journey is one of our senior leaders, and for a kid who’s going to be a cornerstone for our team, we just want her to enjoy her senior year,” Anderson said.

Having fun is important to Mitchell, but she said it’s easier to have fun when your team is winning.

“If we all do our parts, everything comes together on its own, and that’s when it’s fun,” she said. “When you don’t have to stress over someone doing their job in the field, it’s a lot easier to have fun.”

Over two years and four games, Mitchell has been a solid option for Anderson behind now-University of North Alabama pitcher Brittany Adair. Mitchell has thrown 143 innings thus far in her career, and tallied 218 strikeouts and a 1.21 ERA.

Columbia Academy softball coach Seth Anderson talks about pitcher Journey Mitchell (seated, middle) during her scholarship signing ceremony on Wednesday, Nov. 11, at Columbia Academy. (Photo courtesy Columbia Academy)

Mitchell chose Carson-Newman — an NCAA Division II program in Jefferson City, Tenn. — over Mercer and Trevecca, due in large part to the commitment the Eagles have to their softball program.

“The softball team is treated the same as the football team there,” she said. “We share a weight room with them, and that’s not how it is in most places.”

Additionally, Mitchell said she felt at home in Jefferson City and at the small faith-based school. She committed to the school despite the possibility of larger schools coming in late with offers.

“I had never even heard of Carson-Newman, but when I went to visit, I absolutely fell in love,”she said. “It’s a cute, small town where everybody knows everybody, and everyone was very welcoming when I would go visit,”

Mitchell said she plans to study nursing, and Carson-Newman boasts a respected program academically as well. The coaching staff being open and willing to allow her to pursue a nursing degree was a large factor in her recruiting.

“Sometimes coaches won’t work around nursing programs because they are so demanding,” she said. “Coach (Michael) Graves being open to it was a big deal.”

Chris Yow is the multimedia editor for SM-Tn Sports. Reach him at sports@sm-tnsports.com or follow on Twitter @ChrisYow14.

Spring Hill’s Wade to play D-I softball at Alabama A&M

By Maurice Patton

D’Naijah Wade’s best may be yet to come.

The Spring Hill senior announced Thursday she will sign a college softball scholarship with Alabama A&M, after considering scholarship offers from Tennessee State, Grambling and Jackson State as well as Freed-Hardeman and Bryan College.

“It took me a bit,” Wade said regarding her selection process. “I wanted to explore my options a little more, do more research on the schools that were interested in me. I felt like Alabama A&M was a fit for me. I felt like they met my requirements, my educational requirements.

“I wanted someplace close to home, a nice-sized school. And they have want I wanted to major in – kinesiology.”

Veteran Lady Raiders coach Gary Caperton thinks Wade, who played summer ball with the Nashville Cruisers, could step onto the Huntsville campus and challenge for playing time quickly with the Southwest Athletic Conference (SWAC) program.

“D’Naijah has all the skills and ability to be a top-notch player,” Caperton said. “She’s tall, she’s fast as can be, she’s coachable. She’s the total package. You just have to tweak a few things, ‘shine’ her up a little. She still hasn’t reached her potential. She’s a great player, a likeable player, very team-oriented. I just hope she keeps her drive because I think she’s got even more to show.”

In a junior season that was limited by the global pandemic to just five games, Wade hit .571 with four stolen bases and two extra-base hits.

“She is definitely a great defensive outfielder,” Caperton said. “She tracks balls unbelievably. She has an arm you rarely get to see because she can get back on balls, but she can stand at our fence at 225 feet and get it to the plate, and not even look like she’s trying. And she doesn’t mind laying out.

“Offensively, she needs to be slapping. She’s a threat coming out of the box right-handed; imagine turning her around.”

TSSAA adds fourth class for basketball, baseball, softball

By Maurice Patton

New classes. Same concerns.

As the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association adapted a four-classification system for Division I basketball, baseball and softball for the 2021-22 and ’22-23 school years during Monday’s Board of Control meeting, the format suddenly didn’t seem to be the remedy to disparity that many had expected.

With the state’s high school programs divided evenly into four tiers, based on 20-day enrollment figures for the current school year, the smallest Class 4A school will – still – be half the size of the largest.

Parity within the classes, particularly the largest, was the issue among many coaches with the three-tiered system that was initially adapted for those sports in 1976.

Though the enrollment figures for the upcoming classification period are not yet available, numbers from the 2018 report would put the breakpoint between Class 3A and 4A at roughly 1,160 – approximately 1,600 students fewer than Collierville, which in 2018 had the state’s largest enrollment at 2,766.

“I think it’d still be a concern for those schools at the lower end of (Class 4A),” said Pat Swallows, executive director of the Tennessee Baseball Coaches Association. “I don’t know if there’s anyway to fix it.”

Veteran Spring Hill baseball coach Paul Lamm was pleased that the TSSAA Board of Control expanded Division I basketball, baseball and softball to four classes for the next classification period and maintained the eight-team state tournament format in all three sports. (Photo by Ric Beu)

In addition to a four-class plan dividing Division I programs evenly, a ‘hybrid’ plan that would take a predetermined number of teams to 4A and a similar number to 1A, with the rest evenly divided for 2A and 3A, was considered by the Board but ultimately voted down.

“We knew that gap was still going to be there,” TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress said. “Right now, the bottom of (Class) 3A is 1,034. Going four classes, unless there’s a hybrid model that looks different, you’re not helping.

“When we started talking about hybrid, I just stopped talking, everybody (on the board) was shaking their heads so hard. We haven’t fixed the problem at the top, but the positive is we are doing four classes, we’re doing it for two years, maybe we can take another look then.”

The new format likely leaves both Spring Hill – barely (2018 enrollment 1,162) – and Columbia Central (1,358 in 2018) in the state’s largest class.

“Literally 15 or 20 schools is all it’s going to affect, depending on what the cutoff is,” Central boys basketball coach Nick Campbell said. “We’re going to be a ‘small’ 4A, from what I can tell.”

Along with the move to four classes, the Board opted to continue bringing four teams to the state tournament in those three sports – a “best of both worlds” scenario to both Swallows and Basketball Coaches Association of Tennessee executive director Bruce Slatten.

“I think everybody was a little – I don’t want to say shocked, but – shocked that it actually happened,” Spring Hill baseball coach Paul Lamm said. “Not the four classes, but I think every (coaches) association expected that if it did go four classes, it would definitely only be four teams to the state tournament.

“I think it was a really pleasant surprise that they decided to keep those eight teams, and rightfully so. They did what needed to be done.”

For Division I football, the decision was to continue to compete in six classes, while volleyball, soccer and track will remain in three classes divided evenly among on participating programs. Cross country will compete in A/AA and AAA, based on a school’s classification for track. Golf, tennis and wrestling will compete in two classes, with participating programs divided evenly. There will be one class for bowling.

Classification formats for Division II saw no changes. Football will continue in three classes, with all other sports maintaining the same number of classes for 2021-23 as currently.

Districts and regions for the 2021-23 classification period will be set by the state office and approved by the Board of Control later this fall.

Maurice Patton is the editor for Southern Middle Tennessee Sports. E-mail: mopattonsports@gmail.com; Twitter: @mopatton_sports.

Zion announces Adcox as new softball coach

SM-TN Sports

Zion Christian announced Monday morning the hiring of Russ Adcox as its new head softball coach. He spent three years as an assistant coach for Zion’s middle school softball team and the last six years as an assistant coach for varsity softball under Tommy Fox.

“I know I’ve got big shoes to fill following Coach Fox, and we’re definitely going to miss (Fox’s daughters) Caroline and Ella on the field, but I think we’ve got the right elements in place to have a really good team,” Adcox said in a release from the school.

Russ Adcox / Courtesy Photo

Adcox takes over a program that was 5-1 before the 2020 season was ended due to COVID-19. They replace three seniors — Lauryn Kinser, Sarah Joiner and Sewanee signee Kathryn Kennedy — from that team, but Adcox is confident the program will continue to thrive under his leadership, along with assistant coaches Jeff Hazard and Eric Coble.

“(Hazard) and I have coached together for the last six years. We understand the system (Fox) implemented and plan to keep as much of it as possible,” Adcox said. 

Coble was an assistant coach with Zion’s middle school team that went undefeated last season, and has previously coached at Mt. Pleasant. Adcox is excited to add both coaches to the staff, and believes the 2021 team will be competitive.

“We’ve got a great group of girls, including four returning seniors and a really good freshman class coming off an undefeated middle school (season),” he said. “The girls have been playing together a while, half of them are playing with travel organizations, and Coach Hazard and Coach Coble are going to be a big asset to the program.

“I can’t wait for the season to get started. The girls love the game and each other. It’s going to be fun year with this group.”

Adcox has been a member of the Zion coaching community for nine years. He is also the President of the ZCA Booster Club, and has been an active volunteer in Zion athletics since in 2004. He also serves as the Lead Pastor of Maury Hills Church in Columbia and on numerous non-profit boards in the community.

BOC to consider four classes for basketball, baseball, softball at Monday meeting

By Maurice Patton

Is a change gon’ come for Tennessee high school basketball, baseball and softball?

Coaches in those sports are hopeful that classification for the 2021-23 period will place Division I programs in one of four classes – a departure from the three-class system that has existed since 1976.

During a Monday meeting at Siegel High School in Murfreesboro, the TSSAA Board of Control will take up the topic of classifying Division I and D-II schools for the following two school years, based on 20-day enrollment figures for the current year.

Coaches in the three sports have long campaigned for what is generally seen as a more equitable system than the one now in place, which at the Class AAA level sees schools such as Spring Hill — which reported an enrollment of 1,053 in 2016, the basis for the current classifications — potentially competing against schools more than twice its size.

“If you’re in that third class, there’s no cap to the (enrollment of the) schools you’re competing against,” Raider baseball coach Paul Lamm said. “That starts adding up.”

The disparity in enrollments is particularly stark for Spring Hill, one of three schools that plays in Region 4-4A for football – along with Tullahoma and Lawrence County – that plays in Class AAA basketball, baseball and softball.

Columbia Central (2016 reported enrollment: 1333) isn’t far removed from a similar fate. Boys basketball coach Nick Campbell sees how a four-class structure would be beneficial to the Lions as well.

Columbia Central’s Nick Campbell is among the Tennessee high school basketball coaches advocating for a change to a four-class system, which will be discussed Monday during the TSSAA Board of Control meeting in Murfreesboro. The classification change is also encouraged by a number of baseball and softball coaches across the state. (Photo by Ric Beu)

“We’d likely get away from Murfreesboro in regional play,” said Campbell, referring to District 8-AAA matching up with the Rutherford County-based District 7-AAA to form Region 4-AAA. Four of the eight teams from District 7-AAA reported enrollments of 2,000 or more in 2016, and all except Rockvale – which did not open until last fall – had enrollments of at least 1,700.

“We’ve only got three teams since 2010 that have won a region game,” Campbell added. “It would definitely level the playing field a little.”

All three coaches associations are in favor of four classes, though the change would have its potential drawbacks.

“We think people have finally seen the disparity. In Class AAA, you could have a school with 1,100 playing a school with 2,400,” said Pat Swallows, executive director of the Tennessee Baseball Coaches Association.

The primary concern is that the state tournament format may change with four classes. As opposed to quarterfinal, semifinal and championship games taking place at a central site with three classes, the tourney participants may be limited to four teams.

“I think if that’s the case, some would rather stay at three (classes),” Swallows said. “Going to the state tournament is any athlete’s dream. Cutting the number of athletes that can go – when there’s plenty of fields … You can figure something out.”

Both John Conditt, executive director of the Tennessee High School Softball Coaches Association, and Basketball Coaches Association of Tennessee executive director Bruce Slatten echoed Swallows’ sentiments.

Bernard Childress, executive director of the TSSAA, said four classes were discussed during the last reclassification talks in 2016.

“The reason we didn’t the last time is, I think we (the state office) gave the Board too much to consider,” he said. “We presented 48 different plans. I think they got overwhelmed.

“What we need to preserve is regular-season travel. If the schools are willing to except (longer travel distances), … We can do four classes and still have districts.”

Childress clarified, however, that while the enrollment gaps will be lessened with four classes, they won’t go away.

“There’s always going to be disparities,” he said. “Whoever’s at the bottom – somebody’s going to be upset.”

Meanwhile, officials at Zion Christian Academy have submitted a request for Division II to adapt three classes — rather than two — for basketball.

The request sent to the TSSAA by Zion athletics director Derek Boyd places 32 schools in DII-A, with 20 in DII-AA (smallest, enrollment 266) and 12 in DII-AAA (smallest, enrollment 431). The breakdown closely resembles the classes currently set for Division II football.

“It’s not perfectly done,” Boyd said. “It’s just showing that, I feel like – transportation-wise, it’d be OK. In Division II-AAA, they’ve always traveled quite a bit anyway.

“I think giving the smaller schools a chance to compete would be a good thing.”

Zion Christian has also requested to continue playing a non-region football schedule for the 2021 and ’22 seasons.

Maurice Patton is the editor for Southern Middle Tennessee Sports. E-mail: mopattonsports@gmail.com; Twitter: @mopatton_sports.