November 17, 2012

Pioneering days ahead for Parris

Southeast Whitfield senior Tavi Parris has been playing softball and basketball since she was a young girl participating in Whitfield County’s recreation leagues.

As a standout on both the diamond and the court, athletic pursuits have always come easily to Parris, who has been among the area’s best in both of her sports of choice in recent seasons. But in her heart, she has always wanted to help those dealing with tougher circumstances than her own, and she will use her talents on the softball field to further that goal.

On Friday, Parris — the Lady Raiders’ leading hitter this fall — signed an athletic scholarship to continue her education and softball career at Tusculum College.

“I chose Tusculum mostly for the educational reasons,” Parris said. “I want to go into special education, and they have a real strong program for that. I was sad for a while to know that high school softball was over, but I am happy now and excited to be going to Tusculum.”

Parris was a big part of the turnaround for the Lady Raiders during her senior year. Southeast won just three games in 2011, but behind Parris’ leadership and a young group of starters, first-year coach Kelley Barton’s team finished with nine wins.

“Tavi is our strong leader, and she has been that kind of a player for a long time,” Barton said. “She’s been our starting catcher since she was a freshman, and it has been great watching her play over the years. I’ve known her since she was a little girl, and we are very excited to see her take the next step in her life.”

Parris led the team with a .382 batting average while scoring 22 runs and collecting 16 RBIs. She had an on-base percentage of .432 and a slugging percentage of .588. On the basepaths, she was 7-for-9 in stolen base attempts.  

“It was probably one of the better all-around years that I have had at Southeast,” said Parris, who is the daughter of Jerri Lynn and Mark Parris. “I have a lot still left to work on. It probably wasn’t the best that I have, but I am going to work my best to get there.”

That attitude is what Barton hopes the Lady Raiders take from Parris’ time at Southeast.

“Not only has she been successful on the field and on the court, but she is an excellent student,” Barton said. “She is one of those people who will be successful in whatever she puts her mind to do in life. It makes me very proud to have her as my first signee because I have known her for so long. I’ve been able to watch her grow and mature and become a wonderful young lady.”

Parris said she is looking forward to having a fun season with her basketball teammates and looking for the same kind of turnaround that the softball team experienced. The Lady Raiders were 1-25 on the court last season, but they also have a new coach in Michael Durham.

Still, even though she enjoys playing basketball, Parris said softball has been her love.

“Softball has always been my favorite,” she said. “I was always so much better at softball than I was at basketball. I really like playing basketball, but softball was what I knew I would be playing at the next level.”

Tusculum, an NCAA Division II school located in Greeneville, Tenn., will be under a new coach as well. Assistant coach Julie Huebner was named the Pioneers’ head coach this summer after Fred Gillum retired. Tusculum was 32-25 last year, losing in the South Atlantic Conference tournament to Carson-Newman in the loser’s bracket semifinals.

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