Arts & Sciences pitcher Liana Rodrigues no longer plans to play softball for NCAA Division III Berry College in Rome, Ga. Instead she has accepted an offer to play Division I softball for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Rodrigues, who wants to study to be a nutritionist, said she was set on going to Berry but decided to apply for the honors program at UTC because some of her friends did. The second week in March she received news that she had been accepted.
A meeting was then arranged between the Rodrigues family and UTC coach Frank Reed.
"I had a page full of questions, front and back," Rodrigues said. "We talked about expectations, his coaching style and what the team was like. I was impressed with what he said.
"It was a hard decision to let Berry go. It just felt right. It all fell into place."
Rodrigues is in her fifth year on the high school varsity at CSAS and is off to the best start to a season in her career. Coming into Baylor's Hits for Hope tournament at Warner Park over the weekend, she had a 7-1 pitching record with an ERA of 0.18. In 40 innings pitched the right-hander had given up 12 hits, and her area-leading 94 strikeouts helped offset the 20 walks she had allowed.
"Liana has improved a lot from the mental side," CSAS coach Kaity Holloway said. "Physically, there wasn't too much to be done. Mentally she has taken the senior role very seriously. She does what she needs to do on the field and in the dugout. That's been huge for us."
Rodrigues said she first began playing softball at the 10-under level but had never been on an A-level travel team until she joined the Frost Falcons Red 16-under team last summer. Rodrigues has a signature windup that's busier than that of most pitchers, but neither Holloway nor Falcons coach David Payne wanted to tinker with it.
"The biggest thing was her realizing she didn't have to do it all by herself," Payne said. "All we wanted her to do was relax and throw strikes, concentrate on moving the ball, let the people behind her make plays on defense, then we'll come in and score some runs for her."
Rodrigues also had an athletic scholarship offer from East Carolina's Beth Keylon-Randolph, former coach at Chattanooga State.
"I think Liana Rodrigues can do anything she wants to do," Holloway said of her ability to compete at the Division I level. "There's not a pitch I doubt her on at all."
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.
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.