Ooltewah junior Allie Jones has committed to continue her softball career with Lincoln Memorial University, an NCAA Division II member competing in the South Atlantic Conference.
Jones, who plays select softball for her father, Dale, on the Chattanooga Force '97 team, said she first met Lady Railsplitters coach Natalie Layden at a hitting clinic at the Frost Falcons indoor facility in January. It was there that Jones was invited to LMU's winter camp.
"I went to tour it and I just loved it," Jones said. "All the girls were great with their manners, and they were very friendly to us. The campus is beautiful. I was thinking I might want to give this a bigger look."
After some exchanging of emails with the coach, she and her entire family visited a second time. Convinced it was where she wanted to go, Jones went back again Saturday and committed in person.
Jones is an outfielder who plays center for the Lady Owls. She is their leading batter at .477 and leads the Chattanooga area with 59 RBIs. She's also the team's doubles leader with 12 and is tied for the team lead with six home runs, and she's stolen six bases and scored 34 runs.
"Allie is a truly gifted softball player," Ooltewah coach Jon Massey said. "She's got some power. She swings the bat well. She's got a really good arm and pretty good foot speed. She brings a lot to the table that you want as a coach."
Jones said she plans to major in criminal justice.
Hiwassee signs Cooper
Ooltewah senior outfielder Ashunti Cooper recently signed softball scholarship papers with National Christian College Athletic Association member Hiwassee College.
Cooper first visited the campus in Madisonville, Tenn., last fall. She said coach Rickey Jennings ended up calling her requesting video of her batting, slap-hitting and fielding. He came to Ooltewah's tournament at The Summit of Softball Complex earlier this month.
"I thought they had a good softball team," Cooper said. "He said he wanted me to come there. I liked it and wanted to go with them. I liked that they were all friendly on the team."
Cooper, who wants to become a physical therapist, is batting .450 from the top of the Lady Owls' batting order. She is perfect thus far on stolen bases and leads the Chattanooga area in hits (54), runs scored (52) and steals (31).
"Ashunti has done a great job getting on base," Massey said. "Very, very rarely does she strike out. She's got a great attitude. She comes ready to play, and you love having that speed at the top of the lineup. We wish her great success at Hiwassee."
Murray to Temple
Hixson senior Marissa Murray is planning to sign softball scholarship papers Wednesday with NCCAA member Tennessee Temple University.
Murray sent out recruiting paraphernalia to various colleges, including Temple. She is a friend and former high school teammate of current Lady Crusaders player Kaleigh Riley, who Temple coach Randy Crawford said was instrumental in the recruiting process of Murray.
"He called me and wanted me to come down, see the campus and practice with them a little bit," Murray said of Crawford. "I went down with my dad and I ended up staying overnight with Kaleigh. I really liked the people on the team. They reminded me of my friends. There was something about it. Coach Crawford's great."
Murray is a key member of the Lady Wildcats' pitching staff, and she also plays first base. She's batting a little better than .300 this season.
"She came down and visited the school, and I liked what I saw," Crawford said. "She looked like a strong pitcher, and her hitting looked real strong from what I was seeing in the cage. We're really excited about getting Marissa. She's a good girl, great attitude, and it sounds like she's a hard worker."
Hixson coach Jayme Putman confirmed that Murray has a strong work ethic and said she's a solid defensive player whether at first base or in the pitching circle.
"She's very dedicated and committed to getting better," Putman said. "She's really been shaping into a leader for our team. I think Temple is a great fit for her. I think they'll be a force to be reckoned with next year."
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him 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.