Shorter University softball coach Al Thomas knows a good thing when he sees it. After winning the NAIA championship last spring with several former northwest Georgia prep stars playing key roles, Thomas is dipping into the talent-rich area again to highlight the 2013-14 recruiting class.
Ringgold slugger Ericka Bynum, Gordon Lee pitcher Kalei Kimbrell and Chattooga catcher Tori Willingham plan to sign and return their letters of intent today to play for a Hawks program that went 53-11 in their final season in NAIA. Thomas' team, which also includes former LFO star Maddie Bray, Calhoun's Bre Johnson and Gordon Lee's Kendall Johnson and Courtney Towns, now is in NCAA Division II.
"He does a great job of recruiting the area, and he's always at the summer league games and even makes some of the tournaments," Ringgold coach Rachel Hodge said of Thomas. "They won the championship last year with several area girls, so he knows what kind of players we have."
Bynum led the Lady Tigers to a Class AAA runner-up finish with a .464 batting average, seven homers and 16 doubles. Willingham, in addition to throwing out 11 of 15 would-be base stealers, led Chattooga with a .445 average, 12 doubles and 31 RBIs, while Kimbrell led Gordon Lee to the Class A championship with a 21-4 pitching record and 0.73 ERA to go along with a .347 batting average and 40 RBIs.
Bynum likely spoke for the other two when she listed her reasons for choosing the Rome school.
"I really like the coach and I feel very comfortable going there," she said. "I love the girls going with me and it's a great school with a great program."
• Dalton's Allie Blackwood will sign today with Austin Peay after leading the Lady Catamounts to a surprise run into the Class AAAA second round of the playoffs. The pitcher/third baseman, who hit .423 with 11 doubles and 23 RBIs, is also a 4.0 GPA student.
"Allie is a great competitor who loves the game of softball and she's willing to work," Dalton coach Jeff McKinney said. "I believe she will really excel at Austin Peay because she'll be able to concentrate on the sport year-round. A lot of girls have the talent to play in college, but she has talent and she loves the game."
Contact Lindsey Young at email@example.com or at 423-757-6296.
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...