published Sunday, March 16th, 2014

Pals' sons commit on same day

Greg Payne and Todd Wofford became good friends while playing baseball together at Shorter College in the late 1980s, Payne from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School and Wofford from Central High, and they shared a happy coincidence Saturday.

Their sons, now high school juniors who both play shortstop and pitch, committed to college baseball programs on the same day.

Tyler Payne, who plays for the McCallie team his dad coaches, committed to Lee University in Cleveland. Brody Wofford, who stars at Model High in Rome, pledged to Jacksonville State in the Ohio Valley Conference.

"It's really cool," Greg Payne said. "Todd and I have several connections and we've kept in touch through the years, and this is a proud day for both of us."

He said Tyler had five scholarship offers already, and four were from NCAA Division I schools, but he never could shake his attraction to Lee's Division II program.

"They were first and it's an amazing offer. Lee had been watching him since a camp at Tennessee after his freshman year," Coach Payne said. "From the day we visited there in August, everywhere he went he compared it to Lee. He didn't buy into having to go to a big conference or a big school. He prayed a lot about it, and that's where he wanted to go."

Brody Wofford is leading Model with a .458 batting average and has allowed seven hits with 12 strikeouts in 11 innings pitched. His recruiting took off after his summer season with the Rome-based Doubleday organization.

He said JSU "just felt like home." More than 20 schools have been recruiting him, and the process "was becoming a distraction," Brody said, "and I knew in my heart after they offered me, I wanted to be a Gamecock."

Fleenor set for W&L

Girls Preparatory School senior Michelle Fleenor was honored at the school Friday morning for her acceptance to attend and play tennis at Washington & Lee.

The 2012 TSSAA Division II-AA singles runner-up and 2013 state doubles champion said she decided after a spring-break tour a year ago that she wanted to attend the NCAA Division III university in Lexington, Va., but she didn't pursue a tennis possibility at the time. Someone spoke to coach Erin Ness on her behalf in recent months, however, and Ness followed up.

"We got along really well, and I met the team and it all worked out well," said Fleenor, whose next two choices were Furman and Richmond. "It's a very stellar academic institution, and I know I will thrive academically, socially and athletically there, so it's perfect for me."

Said GPS coach Sue Bartlett: "Michelle is a very good student and it's a really great school, so them wanting her to play tennis was just icing on the cake. She's a great athlete and a great competitor, and I see her just getting better and better as a player. She's going to help them in every way: singles, doubles, leadership -- the whole package."

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