published Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

Chattanooga's Lady Mocs sign Tigers' Marina Wilkerson

Marina Wilkerson loved Chattanooga so much, she decided to double her stay.

And University of Tennessee at Chattanooga softball coach Frank Reed is glad to bring the Chattanooga State outfielder a few miles down the Tennessee River.

The Hogansville, Ga., resident from LaGrange Academy officially became a Lady Mocs signee Monday. She committed to Reed's program a couple of weeks ago.

Wilkerson led the Lady Tigers' 2012 national championship team with 14 home runs and repeated that total in 2013, when she also had the No. 2 batting average, .399, with team highs of 22 stolen bases and 50 runs scored in 45 games. She had nine doubles and a triple.

Besides the 14 homers, her freshman season included a .358 average, 16 doubles, four triples, 61 runs and 43 RBIs in 63 games.

"She had two really good years at Chatt State and was a key part of a national championship," Reed said. "We were looking for somebody who can come in with speed and a strong arm in the outfield and somebody who can hit home runs and for average, and I think Marina brings all that.

"And we like her enthusiasm for the game. I've seen her come up and congratulate the third baseman for making a play on a routine ground ball. She's an awesome kid. We were really impressed with her off the field as well as on. We're excited to get her, and we're hoping she'll come in and make big contributions to our program."

Reed acknowledged that UTC had a few openings develop, and "we wanted to strengthen ourselves with power and speed, two areas where we felt we were lacking, and we get both of those things with Marina. Her experience and her charisma on the field are icing on the cake."

Wilkerson said she also talked seriously with Valdosta State and Longwood University in Virginia, among other four-year schools, "but I love Chattanooga and I like the way [the Lady Mocs] play and the support they get."

Blythe Golden, who coached the Lady Tigers this past year, said she was very happy for Wilkerson.

"What a great career she had for us. She's definitely a Division I [NCAA] player," Golden said, "and I'm excited she chose UTC. I think she will do a great job there, and we can follow her the next two years right here in town.

"I'm also excited that we can start building this relationship with UTC and maybe send more players there in the future."

Contact Ron Bush at rbush@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6291.

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