Macy Weeks said making any national softball tournament is tough.
But the players around here make it seem easy.
At least nine current high school softball players or recent graduates will compete later this month in various national softball tournaments on different sides of the country.
Weeks, a left fielder for Northwest Whitfield’s Georgia High School Association Class 4A state championship team last fall, is on the Tennessee Fury 18 Gold squad out of Chattanooga. She said most of the players are either from South Georgia or Alabama. The team will compete in the Amateur Softball Association’s 18-and-under gold division tournament in Clearwater, Fla., starting today with the opening ceremonies.
She isn’t the only local player in the same tournament.
In fact, she isn’t even the only Lady Bruin.
Northwest graduate Emily Boyd is on the Tennessee Fury ‘95 team, which also will compete in the ASA’s 18-gold division tournament. Bayli Cruse, who will be a senior for the Lady Bruins and hit the walkoff home run to win the Class 4A state title last October, is on Boyd’s team.
Boyd called the ASA “the premiere softball association to play in.” There’s an 18-A division and an 18-gold division. The 18-A division allows college players, Boyd said, while the 18-gold division doesn’t. Still, Boyd, who will play softball at Ole Miss after earning a full-ride athletic scholarship, believes there are tons of future college players like herself in the gold division.
“In all other divisions except for 18-gold, there are state qualifiers and each state has a different number of berths,” she said. “It’s mainly all Division-I players who play in the gold division.”
The 18-gold division has regional and territorial tournaments throughout the spring and summer for teams to qualify into the national tournament. Different regions and territories account for a different number of berths — dependent on past success — and the maximum number of teams in the tournament is 76. Qualifying tournaments were held through the first full weekend in July.
Dalton’s Allie Blackwood, Christian Heritage’s Rebecca Leonard, North Murray’s Megan Pittman and Northwest’s Colbie Thomas and Hannah Godfrey play for the Georgia Force Elite, and the team also qualified for the ASA Nationals 18-gold division. The squad competed in the ASA’s 16-gold division last summer.
Blackwood is making her third consecutive appearance in an ASA national tournament. She was on last year’s team, which she said finished in the top 20, and two years ago was on the East Cobb Bullets, who were in the 16-gold division, and Blackwood said the team finished in the top 40.
She said next summer would be her last to play for a travel team, and it would have to be in the 18-A division where college players are allowed. Blackwood will play next spring at Austin Peay State University in Clarksdale, Tenn.
“There’s always a lot of teams from around the state,” Blackwood said. “If you make it to nationals, you’re obviously really good. Being able to play in 18-gold is cool, and this is the last time before I go off to college.”
Fellow recent graduate Mykeah Johnson is on the Tennessee Fury ’94 team playing in the ASA’s 18-A division tournament, which begins next Sunday in Salem, Va. As of Monday, the tournament’s team list included 76 squads. Boyd said Ashley Connor is on the Tennessee Fury ’96, which will compete at the Premier Girls Fastpitch national tournament, which begins next Sunday in Irvine, Calif.
None of the local players or high school coaches knew of anyone else who was competing in a nationals tournament.
Boyd’s teams — prior to the Chattanooga-based Fury, she played on a Calhoun travel squad — have gone to nationals the past five years. Twice the Fury tied for fifth. Weeks’ team reached nationals since the 12-and-under division and finished in the top 10 once.
Still, Weeks said it’s tough to even earn a spot in the event.
“You’re one of the top-rated teams in the nation if you get to go to that tournament,” she said. “You have to qualify to go, and it’s usually the best teams across the country.”
Blackwood agreed. She said only “two or three” other players on the Dalton High team besides her play summer travel ball. The talent level for nationals is much higher than the GHSA state playoffs, which the Lady Catamounts reached the past two falls.
“There’s a tremendous difference,” Blackwood said. “On the high school teams, you have maybe three or four standout players. At nationals, pretty much every player is a standout player. It’s just a completely different level of ball.”
Local players on the road looking for tourney titles
Macy Weeks said making any national softball tournament is tough.
- North Murray High School Mountaineers
On a mission
The local girls who visited the Dominican Republic last week on a mission trip through Score International tell a matching story.
Toward the end of a visit to Pasitos de Jesus, a girls orphanage in Boca Chica, the children began singing the Gospel song “Mighty to Save” to their visitors.
“It sent chills down your spine,” said Kala Franks, a rising senior at Coahulla Creek High School. “I felt they were ministering to me rather than us ministering to them.”
In the lineup again
When Northwest Whitfield repeated as the Georgia High School Association Class 4A softball state champion last fall, that appeared to be the last time the majority of the Lady Bruins’ senior class would be teammates on the diamond.
Now, thanks to the Stump on Sports All-Star Softball Classic, five of those six seniors will reunite to play together one more time.
Junior golf: Hicks able to hang for final round
Despite giving up a few strokes from Monday’s opening round of 4-over-par 76, Dalton’s Landon Hicks was the only local competitor to advance to the third round of the Georgia Junior Championships.
All-Area Spring Female Team: Salinas hoping things keep getting better and better with age
Isabel Salinas’ freshman season for Southeast Whitfield High School’s track and field team wasn’t up to her standards, and she really isn’t sure why it ended up that way in 2013. It could have been her injuries. It could have been not being in proper shape.
One thing Salinas, nicknamed “Izzy” by friends and coaches, does know is that her sophomore year went a lot better.
N. Murray second at Cam Newton
Members of the North Murray High School football team and coaching staff pose with Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, standing center, after finishing second in the third annual Cam Newton Foundation 7 on 7 Football Tournament at North Cobb High School in Acworth. The Mountaineers will advance to face other regional tournamentwinners at the Charlotte (N.C.) Championship Tournament on July 10-12. Northwest Whitfield also competed in the tournament with linebacker Clay Phillips (not pictured) being selected as a Tournament All-Star.
All-Area Baseball Team and Player of the Year
As a freshman at Northwest Whitfield High School, Seth Pierce came out of nowhere and was as dominant a pitcher as the area had. Finishing his “rookie” season with the Bruins, the left-handed Pierce led the area with nine victories — he also had one save — and showed overpowering dominance with a 9-3 record and 89 strikeouts in 73 1/3 innings. He finished his first season on the hill in Tunnel Hill with a 1.71 ERA while allowing 61 hits and 23 walks. Those numbers were also recorded against competition in a higher classification as the Bruins were playing Class 4A ball when the state had just five classifications. His performance earned him honors as 2012 The Daily Citizen All-Area Baseball Player of the Year.
Dalton girls finish second in Class 4A
In the Class 4A girls state golf tournament last year, the Dalton High School team finished third at Nob North Golf Course. Monday, playing in the state championship at Waynesboro Country Club, the Lady Catamounts finished second by just two strokes.
“There is just one more place left to win,” Dalton coach Nancy Hallsworth said. “They have the time ahead of them to do it.”
N. Murray cheer duo headed to DSC
CHATSWORTH — For North Murray cheerleader Tori Stainton, earning a spot on Dalton State College’s competition squad is the fulfillment of a long process. Classmate Stacia Baker went for a tryout on a whim and found her own spot with the Roadrunners.
No shortage of highlights this year for Phillips
CHATSWORTH — When Grace Phillips finished posing for photos of her signing a volleyball scholarship with Andrew College on Monday in North Murray High School’s library, a crowd of supporters gathered for the ceremony put their hands together.
It wasn’t the first time she’d heard applause during a memorable and achievement-filled senior year.
Good day sends Dalton boys to state golf tourney
With a spot in the Class 4A state tournament on the line, Dalton High School’s golf team put together one of its best rounds this season on a course coach Hunter Johnston said was as demanding as any the Catamounts had played this year.
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- On a mission