Spring can’t come soon enough for many area residents, William Blount softball coach Amanda Leatherwood most assuredly among them, and all the snow dumped on Blount County in recent weeks has got nothing to do with it.
When softball season opens March 14, Leatherwood will field one of the region’s strongest teams, with three college signees dotting the 2011 roster. Following on a year that saw the Lady Governors sweep to their first regular-season district championship in some time, a state tournament berth later in the spring is something William Blount has every right to begin contemplating.
“If there’s a year we could do it,” Leatherwood said, “this is that year.”
Senior Erica Tuck constitutes the crown jewel on Leatherwood’s lineup card this season. The recent Tennessee Tech signee delivered a season to remember as the Lady Governor ace a year ago, fanning 186 batters in pitching William Blount to a 28-6 regular-season finish. Tuck will thrive in Cookeville in a year’s time, Leatherwood said.
“I think it’s going to take a lot of work but I have no doubt she’ll be successful at that level,” she said.
Not only was the 5-foot-9 Tuck dominant in the pitching circle, at the plate the future Golden Eagle hit for a .486 average with a team-leading 49 runs batted in. The Tech coaching staff thought so highly of Tuck’s 2010 season it made her its only signee from the Volunteer state on national signing day last November.
“It was a awesome and, in a way, relaxing,” Tuck said. “It felt like a weight was being lifted off my shoulders.”
Tuck’s return alone makes the Lady Governors a team to be reckoned with this season. Factor in the other two signees play - shortstop Hannah Smith and catcher Cameron Campbell - and William Blount has the up-the-middle portion of this year’s defense pretty much covered.
“If I throw a bad ball, she (Campbell) is always there to block it,” Tuck said. “If it’s hit to Hannah, she doesn’t miss the ball - ever.”
Smith put up All-State numbers a year ago, posting a team-leading .526 batting average from her leadoff spot. Throw in a .737 slugging percentage, a .635 on-base percentage and 65 total bases, and Tennessee Wesleyan College is getting a player that can do a great many things for its program, Leatherwood said.
“You can count on her in the clutch,” she said.
No player on a softball or baseball diamond is more important to a pitcher than their battery mate. Campbell was pretty good with the stick last season, hitting for an even .400 average. It’s what the Union College signee adds behind the plate, though, that will make her an asset in , Ky., in a year’s time, Leatherwood said.
“I don’t think she’ll have any trouble being successful up there,” she said.
Fellow seniors Chelsea Lyons and Ashley Kerr only enhance what looks to be a promising season for William Blount softball. If there was ever a year for the Lady Governors to make a state tournament run, Campbell said, this is the one.
“It’s a big goal for us because we’ve had this same core five together since our freshman year,” she said.
More than anything, getting where they’ll play in college out of the way frees Tuck, Campbell and she to focus all their attention on William Blount this spring, Smith said.
“I feel like we can sit back and just play,” she said, “play relaxed. We can go out there and have fun and get the job done.”