After leading Jefferson High School’s softball team to the Sweet Sixteen, two of the Lady Dragons’ strongest players have chosen to continue their playing careers in college.
Pitcher Morgan McKinney and outfielder Lindsey Miles signed letters of intent with Georgia Highlands College in Cartersville.
The Chargers’ coach Melissa Wood was a big factor in the girls’ decision to commit, the players said.
Wood recruited the girls after watching them lead the Dragons to a 1-0 upset over Union County to win the Region 8-AA championship in Blairsville.
In that game, McKinney got the win, struck out 11 batters and gave up just four hits. Overall, McKinney (16-7) earned a team-low .84 ERA over her 142.33 innings pitched. Region coaches named her pitcher of the year and the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association designated McKinney as second-team all-state in Class AA.
Her season accomplishments and the scholarship offer remain a bit of a surprise to McKinney, who suffered through a knee injury last season. She had all but given up playing last spring and returned to the mound having no idea what to expect.
“It was a shock because I had quit for so long and didn’t think I wanted to play softball anymore,” McKinney said. “So to get this scholarship was overwhelming… (Coach Wood) knew I quit or whatever, but she knew I had it in me by just watching me that one game. She knew I could get it all back.”
Miles also was uncertain about playing next year. That changed when she received several scholarship offers during the season in which she led the Lady Dragons’ in hitting.
Miles was named to the first-team, one of just four outfielders chosen for the top roster. This season, she earned a .347 average with 22 hits including five doubles, six triples and two home runs. She scored 23 runs and also led the team in RBI (17) and on-base percentage (.427).
Wood’s previous interactions with Miles had an impact, as did GHC’s Cartersville campus.
“I’ve known the coach for awhile,” Miles said. “I love the school. Some coaches used to tell me you just knew if you went to the school and toured it, that college was just for you. I definitely think I belong here.”
The two-year college is starting its softball program this year, which both players said appealed to them. Miles said she views it as helping build a legacy.
The Chargers, which first launched their athletics program with men’s and women’s basketball in 2012, are part of the Georgia College Athletic Association of the National Junior College Athletics Association.
On Wednesday, the players planned to sign their letters during separate events.
JHS coach Melissa Mullis complimented both seniors for their dedication to softball as well as the impact they had on the school’s team.
She praised them for more than their statistics, which helped boost JHS into the playoffs.
The girls’ intangible qualities also made an impact. Mullis noted Miles as a “strong leader” and McKinney as exhibiting “mental toughness” for her perseverance despite playing in pain.
“I’m excited they are being blessed with an opportunity to continue playing,” Mullis said. “They deserve it after so many years of commitment to a sport. This is some of the reward of being so disciplined and sacrificing so much toward a sport.”