Marion County's Brooke Baxter has two seasons of high school softball eligibility left, but she's already sure where she wants to play in college. The Lady Warriors outfielder has accepted a scholarship offer to continue her career at East Tennessee State University.
Baxter took an unofficial visit to the Johnson City campus on Jan. 21 and the next day took part in ETSU's winter clinic for a second consecutive year. Coach Brad Irwin, a former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga assistant, and his new graduate assistant Tiffany Baker, who recently completed her eligibility at UTC, previously helped Baxter with hitting instruction.
"I love the coaching staff," Baxter said. "They're great. The school itself has a good medical program, which was exactly what I was looking for. All combined it made a perfect combination. It's not that far from home. I could've waited on other offers, but I don't think I'm going to find a better situation."
Baxter was a Times Free Press all-area selection as a sophomore after batting .427 for Marion County, which finished fourth at last spring's Class A state tournament. A center fielder and leadoff batter, she led the Lady Warriors in runs scored (56), stolen bases (28) and walks (22).
"Mainly her job is to get on base and let everybody else do their job to get her in," Marion coach Chris Thomas said. "She's the type of player that's going to give you all she has. She's extra aggressive in the outfield. If she has to dive or do whatever it takes to get to a ball, she'll do it. Brooke is going to work hard at anything she does."
Baxter will be entering her third full season of travel ball for coach Ken Chernak and the Chattanooga Force. She first played for them as a pickup player in the Amateur Softball Association 14-under national tournament in Marietta, Ga.
"Coach Chernak said that was the best tryout I could've had," said Baxter, who has remained a member of the Force. The team will be moving up to 18-under Gold this summer.
Baxter has been among the Force's leaders in on-base percentage and steals since joining. Chernak echoes her high school coach about her work ethic.
"She goes 100 percent all the time and is a very coachable kid," Chernak said. "She just loves the game. I don't think you'll find a player that works any harder to get ready to play."
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.