TUNNEL HILL —
The decision was made nine months ago.
Now it’s in ink.
Northwest Whitfield pitcher Emily Boyd will continue her softball career at the Uni-versity of Mississippi after signing a full athletic scholarship Thursday in the high school gymnasium’s lobby.
Boyd made a non-binding verbal commitment to Ole Miss in January, but was free to change her mind — as were the Lady Rebels — until she put pen to paper. She said Ole Miss’ offer always was No. 1 but she was also considering a full scholarship from Samford, a few offers from mid-major Division I programs and the possibility of walking on at Georgia.
One of the reasons the standout senior chose the Lady Rebels was the chance to play as a freshman. There are three seniors, none of them pitchers, on the 17-player roster for the 2013 season on Ole Miss’ website. Six juniors, two sophomores and six freshmen are who Boyd must compete with for playing time, and only three of them are pitchers.
“I know I’ll have to earn it, but I think I’ll have the opportunity,” said Boyd, The Daily Citizen’s All-Area Player of the Year the past three seasons. “I got some small offers from other big schools but Ole Miss was where I thought the best offer was.”
Boyd’s signing day came less than three weeks after she helped lead Northwest to the Class 4A state title with a 2-1 extra-inning victory against Madison County in the championship matchup in Columbus.
Only one team in each classification finishes the season with a win, and only those seniors get to have their signing parties with no regrets. Boyd is one of them, but she will still miss the memories and friendships gained at Northwest.
“I think I’ll be real sad to leave my friends and family, but at the same time I’m real excited about it,” Boyd said. “Once I get there I’ll be excited.”
This year’s state title is the biggest accomplishment for the four-year Lady Bruins ace, but far from the only one. She has 1,015 strikeouts for her career, including 295 this season in 192 2/3 innings. She posted a 28-2 record with a 0.65 ERA this season, including four wins in three days against Rutland, Madison County, West Laurens and Madison County at the state tournament.
And while she rarely picked up a bat during games, one of her few career at-bats led to a three-run home run in the Lady Bruins’ first victory against Madison County at the state tournament, an 8-7 extra-inning win.
“Your senior year you go out and win your last game,” said Jason Brooker, Boyd’s head coach her senior year. “(Assistant coach Brad Dunn) always said after each game, ‘There’s only one team that wins their last game.’ He would always say, ‘We want to be that team.’”
Brooker, who was in his first year as coach, knew he wouldn’t have to worry about pitching when he took the job in the offseason.
“As far as pitching, she’s the best I’ve seen,” he said. “I don’t have much experience, but she’s the best I saw this year. We played some pretty good teams.
“I would say so. She’s the best I’ve seen. I don’t have a problem saying that. I’ll argue it with anybody.”
Ole Miss finished 22-32 overall and 7-21 in Southeastern Conference play in 2012, the program’s first season under coach Windy Thees. In 2011, the Lady Rebels were 14-39 with a 3-21 record in conference play.
n Boyd was also recently selected by league coaches as the Sub-region 7B-4A Pitcher of the Year, and she was one of five Lady Bruins who made the lineup for the all-sub-region team.
Northwest catcher Bayli Cruse, shortstop Ashley Conner and outfielders Colbie Thomas and Hannah Godfrey — all juniors — were also chosen to the team. Two other local seniors, Dalton’s Allie Blackwood and Southeast Whitfield’s Tavi Parris, made the team as infielders.
Blackwood has committed to Austin Peay State University, a Division I program that competes in the Ohio Valley Conference. Parris plans to sign today with Tennesee’s Tusculum College, a Division II program.
Earning honorable mention were Dalton’s Sarah Stinnett and Destinee Woods, North-west’s Macy Weeks and Southeast’s Sydney Covington and Chaya Drury.