Teammates and family surround Katie Sutherland (center) during her signing at Greenbrier High. She signed to play softball at Tennessee Technological University.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
During her senior softball season at Greenbrier High School, Nikki Smith always stepped to the plate in the No. 3 slot, just before senior teammate Katie Sutherland in the Lady Wolfpack batting order.
Last week they reversed the order.
Sutherland took the first cut Tuesday at the Brierpatch when she signed a letter of intent to attend Tennessee Technological University on a softball scholarship.
Smith batted cleanup Wednesday at Greenbrier, signing a letter of intent to attend Georgia College & State University on a softball scholarship.
"I've been wanting to do this since ninth grade, and now I actually have the chance to go through and do it," Smith said prior to sealing her deal with the Division II program from Milledgeville.
Sutherland was equally excited about joining Tennessee Tech. The Division I program is located near Nashville, and competes in the Ohio Valley Conference.
"My whole desire and goal in life was to play softball for a Division I college," she said. "My coaches and teammates helped me achieve this goal."
Both Smith and Sutherland have been four-year starters for the Greenbrier fastpitch squad, and helped lead the Lady Pack to four consecutive region championships.
As teammates look on, Greenbrier High School senior Nikki Smith signs a letter of intent to attend Georgia College & State University on a softball
Photo by Mike Howell
"They've been a big part of moving our softball program into the state's elite," Greenbrier coach Garrett Black said. "What distinguishes them from the rest is their passion and love for softball. Georgia College & State University and Tennessee Tech are getting two quality players. I think both of them will step right in and start."
Sutherland played right field for Greenbrier, and led the Lady Pack in almost every offensive category, including batting average (.409), RBI (39), doubles (10), triples (three) and home runs (three). Region 3-AAAA coaches recently made Sutherland their unanimous choice as Region Player of the Year.
"Of anybody I've ever coached, Katie is the total package, and I'm not just talking about her softball skills, I'm talking about her as a person," Black said. "She's got everything a college recruiter would look for."
Sutherland will major in pre-med or pre-physical therapy, but after finishing her college career with the Golden Eagles, she may stay on the field.
"If I have the ability it takes, I would like to play at the professional or Olympic level."
Smith distinguished herself on the diamond with defense, committing only two errors at third base during the 2002 season. She also displayed prowess at the plate, batting .339 with eight doubles and 17 RBI.
"She's the best defensive player I've ever coached, hands down," Black said.
In addition to playing in the Peach Belt Conference with the Bobcats, Smith will major in education at Georgia College & State. She also plans to study psychology, and already can provide an analysis of softball success.
"Dedication and commitment are the first things that come to my mind when I think of being good at any sport," she said. "They say hard work pays off, and it really does."
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