Baylor sophomore Lauren Lewis has accepted a scholarship offer and plans to continue her softball career at the University of Kentucky.
Lewis is an outfielder and set a school record last spring with 11 home runs last season. She also had four triples, 12 doubles, a team-high 63 RBIs and 30 runs scored. She was hitting better than .400 most of the season and ended up at .384 for the Lady Red Raiders, who won their second consecutive Division II-AA state championship.
Although she cannot make an official visit until she's a senior, Lewis said she's been to the Lexington campus and has participated in camps there. She said it's been a dream of hers to play in the Southeastern Conference.
"I knew I wanted to commit early," Lewis said. "I had to go get it out of the way."
Lauren's father, Kirk, coaches her summer select team, the Tennessee Fury '96. He said Kentucky coach Rachel Lawson has seen Lauren play many times in Amateur Softball Association national tournaments, following her closely when the Fury were national runners-up in 2011 in Midland, Texas.
Kirk said her decision untimately came down to Kentucky or Tennessee, which is guided by former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly. Lauren turned 16 on Aug. 28.
"We had hoped to wait another year, but it just came down so fast," Kirk said. "I called Ralph Weekly and told him of Lauren's decision. He had another kid from California waiting who he offered right after that, and now his 2015 class is done. You have to act fast. You lose your spot, somebody else will get it."
Baylor coach Kelli Smith said Lewis, whose bat was in the lineup as an eighth-grader, was a much more consistent hitter during her freshman year.
"Still, you're talking about someone's eighth-grade season and ninth-grade season in a high school lineup," Smith said. "The thing that's been so impressive about Lauren is that she's a female athlete, but she's not so emotional like a lot of them I've coached. I think that's why she's been such a successful hitter. She wants to do well, and it may be eating her up inside when she doesn't, but you can never tell. On the physical side, her swing is so pure and so good. I'm so impressed she's hit the way she has, especially in pressure situations."
Lauren batted .417 with two homers, two triples and 16 doubles this past summer for the Fury, who among their achievements went 17-0 in the Colorado Fireworks tournament.
"My best thing is probably hitting," Lauren said. "I really want to work on getting stronger and faster."
Her father said she was also being recruited by UTC, Middle Tennessee State and Southern Illinois.
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.