Tag Archives: high school softball

Commentary: TSSAA spring sports decisions defy logic

By Chris Yow

Make it make sense, TSSAA.

What, you ask? All of it — heck, any of it.

Recently, the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association alerted spring sports — baseball, softball, boys soccer, tennis and track — coaches there would not be any preseason scrimmages allowed prior to their regular seasons. Football coaches were told there would be no scrimmages allowed against other schools to culminate their spring practices.

The problem with this is there is absolutely nothing about it that makes any logical sense.

Can the TSSAA Board of Control give any logical reason for restricting competition between two teams who are about to embark on 18-game regular seasons? If so, I’d love to hear it.

What about football teams, who will have practiced with each other for two weeks playing against another school’s players who have practiced without incident for two weeks? Sorry, no go. No matter that it’s the last thing those kids will do regarding football until summer workouts.

It isn’t like they’re going to be any safer playing an intrasquad game than against an opponent without any cases among their team. Certainly not any safer than they will be in August.

It seems at every turn the TSSAA has made illogical decisions while also making sound decisions regarding regular-season play.

But if the regular season is OK to play, why wouldn’t a scrimmage be OK? It’s as controlled as any form of competition in which the student-athletes will take part.

COVID-19 is certainly an issue across our state, but throughout the 2020-21 school year, the TSSAA has done some of its best work. Working with Governor Bill Lee’s office to make sure parents can attend games was good work. Getting an entire football season played was even more impressive, especially as the season drew to a close and cases were going up across Tennessee.

As basketball season has continued through game and tournament cancellations and postponements, at least the governing body has stuck with their original plan to leave it up to local school systems. What the Governor’s office has done, though, with regard to cheerleaders and dance teams is a little disheartening. Those two entities are not allowed in the gyms, and I understand that adding parents of those kids can lead to larger crowds, but we’re letting in players’ grandparents — which could theoretically be as many as eight people — and more faculty. Get the cheerleaders off the end lines and socially distance them in the bleachers in an area specifically designated for them.

I know the TSSAA wasn’t really the culprit in those situations, it’s the Governor’s office.

Spring sports nonsense, however, is all on the TSSAA… and I just can’t make it make sense.

Chris Yow is the multi-media editor of SM-Tn Sports. He can be reached at sports@sm-tnsports.com or on Twitter @ChrisYow14.

Columbia Central softball experiences coaching change

By Maurice Patton

‘Philosophical differences’, vague as it sounds, may be the best way to describe the situation that resulted in Shelby Burchell Tietgens’ recent resignation as softball coach at Columbia Central.

“There were some differences in opinions between Shelby and the administration, and it was decided between the two that it was best that they part ways,” said Hannah Thomason Cole, whose installation as interim coach was announced Friday night.

Named to succeed current Central athletics director Kevin Creech following the 2019 season, Tietgens’ tenure ended Thursday – a month before preseason practice officially begins, and after, officially, just three games in a pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign.

“It was disappointing to not have a season last year. That was out of everybody’s control,” she said. “It was not ideal for anybody.”

Her impact on the program far exceeded that 0-3 record, though.

Shelby Burchell Tietgens (right) resigned as softball coach at Columbia Central this week. Burchell Tietgens took over the program in June 2019, coaching through a COVID-shortened 2020 season that limited the Lady Lions to just three games. (Courtesy photo by Rob Fleming)

A five-year starter and a four-year all-state selection at Columbia Academy – where she and Thomason Cole were teammates, and where she is an Athletic Hall of Fame honoree – Burchell Tietgens went on to play in two Women’s College World Series over four seasons at the University of Tennessee. After ending her playing career in 2012, she returned to the area and worked as a personal instructor and coached travel ball prior to taking over the Lady Lions’ helm.

“I don’t feel like there’s a lot to comment on because I don’t want there to be anything crazy,” she said. “I just feel like this was the best for everybody, everyone involved. I do know the program is in capable hands with Hannah. I think she’ll do great.

“I just think it would probably be best if I just kept my mouth shut. I don’t have to be involved with it any more. It won’t affect me, the things that I say, but it will affect others. That’s what I’m trying to steer clear of, is not making it any harder on anybody else.”

Central principal Roger White was reluctant to discuss the issue as well.

“I’m disappointed that that’s what Shelby has decided to do,” he said. “We wish her well in whatever she does in the future.”

Despite the change, and its timing, Cole expects the foundation laid by Tietgens over the past 18 months to pay dividends this spring.

“I’m excited to take on the challenge,” she said. “I know that there will probably be some difficulties moving forward. I’ve only been an assistant coach; I’ve never been in the head coaching role, but I have a great support system. I think with the team we have, we will do well this year.

“Since I’ve been with Coach Tietgens, starting in the summer tryouts and the fall, being present with her, we have a lot of the same values and outlook on team sports and softball. We’re going to continue to keep those moving forward. The girls of course are upset about the loss of Coach Tietgens, as we all are. They’re also ready and excited to move forward with us.”

In her absence, Tietgens hopes for the best for her now former players.

“I do want the program to be successful,” she said. “I love those girls. They’re going to do well.”

Maurice Patton is the editor for SM-Tn Sports. He can be reached at mopattonsports@gmail.com or @mopatton_sports on Twitter.

2020: This year’s SM-Tn Sports stories that mattered most

As in most years, the 2020 area high school sports landscape was filled with scholarship signings, coaching changes, championship victories – and, oh yeah, a global pandemic that threatened all of it.

Southern Middle Tennessee Sports was on hand to bring it all to our readers.

As we head into 2021, let’s take a quick look back at the 2020 stories that were most significant to you all:

June 8: Palmer leaves Summit for Alabama job

Just a little more than one week after officially taking over at the offensive coordinator at Summit, Justin Palmer informed the school he would be stepping down to take a position in Alabama.

Although not official until a board meeting on Thursday, Palmer has accepted the position of head coach at Class 5A Cordova.

Read more …

June 15: Central football sidelined following positive COVID test

A positive COVID-19 test for a Columbia Central football player has resulted in the suspension of practice until the end of the two-week Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association-mandated dead period, which begins June 22.

Read more …

 “As we know at this time, no other programs are impacted as a result,” Maury County Public Schools athletics director Chris Poynter said Monday in announcing the development. “My heart goes out to the families and to the young man who has it. We’re praying for him, for a speedy recovery, and that no other student-athletes are impacted as a result.”

Aug. 17: TSSAA adds fourth class for basketball, baseball, softball

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.

Read more …

Aug. 25: Loretto’s Lamm headed for state coaches’ hall of fame

Four longtime high school coaches, including Loretto’s Gary Lamm, and two-time national championship coach Tim Corbin comprise the 2020 Tennessee Baseball Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame class.

The five will be inducted at a Jan. 16 ceremony as part of the TBCA annual convention, which will take place at the Cool Springs Marriott in Franklin.

Read more …

Sept. 14: Mt. Pleasant football hit with COVID-19; Cornersville contest postponed

The Mt. Pleasant Tigers’ football team has postponed their upcoming Friday night region game against Cornersville due to a positive COVID-19 test of at least one player.

Mt. Pleasant Athletics Director Eric Hughes confirmed to SM-Tn Sports on Monday afternoon the Tigers would not play on Friday or against Wayne County next Friday night. Practice has also been canceled to allow for a deep cleaning of the football facilities.

Read more …

Oct. 23: ‘It’s gotta be the shoes!’ Class A MVP brings the heat with hits, style

While the video game ‘NBA Jam’ preceded Miya Cole Brown’s birth by a decade or more, the iconic colored shoes of a player who scored three baskets in a row and was deemed ‘on fire’ still resonates through pop culture.

On Friday, the Summertown senior outside hitter was most certainly ‘on fire’ as she led her team to a second straight state volleyball championship, whilst being named the game’s Most Valuable Player.

Read more …

Nov. 8: Summertown’s Mote out as football coach after six years

Summertown principal Lain Hinson confirmed this weekend that Leslie Mote has been dismissed after six seasons as the school’s football coach.

Hinson declined further comment on the move, which ends the tenure of the only varsity coach in the program’s history.

Read more …

Nov. 11: Tears makes it official with Vols, set for national contest

It wasn’t news that Kavares Tears signed a college baseball scholarship Wednesday with the University of Tennessee – the Columbia Academy standout announced his intentions to do so nearly three years ago – but there was news.

The left-handed Tears, who pitches and plays outfield and first base, has been selected to participate in the inaugural Minority Baseball Prospects All-American Game, which will take place Nov. 21 at Hank Aaron Stadium in Mobile, Ala.

Read more …

Nov. 20: Bradley relieved of coaching duties at Mt. Pleasant

Bronson Bradley confirmed Friday afternoon that he has been dismissed as football coach at Mt. Pleasant after seven seasons – four of which he guided the Tigers to the state playoffs.

In the midst of a global pandemic, Mt. Pleasant finished 1-8 this fall, the second one-win campaign since Bradley took the helm prior to the 2014 season.

Read more …

Dec. 5: Defense dominates as Summit seals state title

Brady Pierce saw the ball coming the whole way, stepped in front of a Mitchell Gibbons pass and took it 29 yards to the end zone — putting the exclamation point on Summit’s state championship run Friday night as the Spartans won the Class 5A title, defeating Oak Ridge 28-7.

The pick-6, a receiving touchdown, 142 all-purpose yards and six tackles — not to mention a punt that pinned the Wildcats inside their 5-yard line — weren’t enough to garner the game’s Most Valuable Player award, but Summit quarterback Destin Wade knows how much his best friend means to the team.

Read more …

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.”