June 19, 2013

Brooker aims to make Georgia a winner

Two former Lady Bruins will play for Peach State

Devin Golden

— Today is the last time former Northwest Whitfield softball standout Emily Boyd will compete at the high school level.

Today is also the Peach State’s last chance this year to claim bragging rights in the annual Stump on Sports Tennessee-Georgia All-Star Classic series.

Boyd — Northwest’s ace the past four seasons and an Ole Miss signee — plays in tonight’s all-star softball game, part of a busy day that concludes the annual summer series pitting recent high school graduates from northwestern Georgia against those from southeastern Tennessee. The softball doubleheader begins at 6 p.m. at Frost Stadium in Chattanooga.

Also taking place today is the all-star baseball contest, which will follow a 5:30 p.m. home run derby at Ridgeland High School’s Jay Smith Field in Rossville. Cost is $5 for both the softball games and baseball contest.

Of the 20 players on Georgia’s softball roster, five are alumni from schools in Whitfield County. Joining Boyd from Northwest is third baseman Mykeah Johnson, who has signed with East Tennessee State University. Also on the roster are Dalton alumni Allie Blackwood, a pitcher/first baseman who has signed with Austin Peay State University, and Carson Hagin, a pitcher/first baseman who has signed with Alderson-Broaddus College; and Southeast Whitfield graduate Tavi Parris, a Tusculum College signee who played in last week’s all-star basketball game.

Boyd was named The Daily Citizen’s All-Area Softball Player of the Year the past four seasons and led the Lady Bruins to the Georgia High School Association Class 4A state championship in 2012. She competed in the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association North-South All-Star Game last week, pitching four innings but not figuring in the decision of the North’s win in a doubleheader split at Alto Park in Rome.

Boyd said knowing this is her last game before moving on to college is “weird.”

“It feels like the other day when I was playing my first high school game and now I’m playing my last,” Boyd said. “It’s one of the quicker transitions of time I’ve ever experienced.”

In addition to Johnson, Boyd will have plenty of other familiar faces in the dugout. Team Georgia will be led by Northwest head coach Jason Brooker, who will be joined by Lady Bruins assistants Greg Boyd (Emily’s father), Brad Dunn and Scott Kilgore. Also helping Brooker is Dade County head coach Autumn Sigler.

Brooker said Boyd will start the first game. He is unsure about his starter for the second game, but said Blackwood and Hagin are both candidates.

Georgia and Tennessee’s high school softball seasons don’t match up. Georgia plays in the fall, Tennessee in the spring, so prep programs from the two states don’t have the chance to compete against one another.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes. I think (Boyd will) do well,” Brooker said. “It’s good to see how they fare against other states and teams that we don’t ever see.”

This will likely be the last time Brooker, who was an assistant during last week’s GACA North-South All-Star Classic, has the chance to coach Boyd. The same is true of Boyd and Johnson’s status as teammates. In addition to playing together for the Lady Bruins, Boyd and Johnson have been a part of the same select softball team in previous summers, traveling to tournaments during the high school offseason.

“It’s exciting to play with Emily one more time,” Johnson said. “We’ve played with one another since we were in fifth grade.”

This year’s Classic series started June 8 with the all-star football game, which Tennessee won 10-7, and continued with the boys and girls basketball and boys and girls soccer games. Tennessee won all but the boys basketball contest, which Georgia won in overtime.

“I want to win, definitely,” Brooker said. “It is an all-star game. It is an exhibition. But they still keep score. ... We want to be the winners.”

The softball edition of the Classic started in 1998 as the first sport in which the competition was staged. Tennessee leads the series 23-7.

As for baseball, the area’s representation in that all-star game has grown since Monday, when former Northwest second baseman Brady Middleton was the only player representing Whitfield County. Dalton graduate Brandon Dale, a pitcher/outfielder, and Coahulla Creek graduate Scout Plott, a catcher, were added to Georgia’s roster on Tuesday.

Tennessee holds a 10-1 advantage in the baseball series.

Stump Martin, the Classics series creator, was a reporter for the Chattanooga News-Free Press and Chattanooga Times Free Press for 19 years and also was on ESPN Radio’s 105.1 The Zone in Chattanooga. He is managing editor of Friday Night Football Live Tennessee and co-owner of Tennessee’s high school Rivals.com website, TNVarsity.com. He has hosted “Stump on Sports Late Nite,” a live sports television show, for nearly 30 years.