Knoxville Catholic High School has rarely had the opportunity to be hopeful about next year when the softball season ended, but under the direction of first year head coach and former Maryville pitcher Sarah Fekete Bailey, things are looking up for the Irish.
Bailey’s team ended its season recently in the district tournament, bowing out to Heritage in a 7-6 loss. The Irish finished the season with a 14-14 record, 12 games better than last year’s mark.
“It’s been a long time since they haven’t had a losing season here,” Bailey said. “It’s been motivating for them to know that winning is a lot more fun than losing.”
While leading the Irish on the softball field, Bailey teaches a variety of subjects at Catholic.
“I teach personal finance, psychology, sociology, and I also have a PE class,” she said. “That changes it up so it never gets boring. It’s refreshing to be able to have a new class and be able to teach something different. In college, I wanted to be kindergarten teacher, but I found out really quickly that there is not that big of a difference between a 6-year-old and an 18-year-old. They still need discipline, and they still want to learn.”
After an All-State career that saw the Lady Rebels reach the Class AAA state championship game her senior season at Maryville, Bailey went onto become a two-time All-American centerfielder at Tennessee, helping the Lady Vols to back-to-back Women’s College World Series appearances in 2005 an 2006.
“Playing in the World Series was a highlight for me,” Bailey said. “My blood has always run orange, and I think, for a lot of little girls, it is the dream to be Lady Vol. I got to live out my dream.
“I remember when I got my first jersey, and I put it on, and it became official. That was really exciting.”
Bailey finished her career at Tennessee as one of the programs best-ever hitters. She remains the program’s all-time leader in single season hits and single season batting with an astounding .500 average in 2006. She accomplished both feats after learning to become a slap hitter during her freshman year with the Lady Vols, having never hit from the left side of the plate before.
“I was starting in centerfield my freshman year, and, after Christmas break I met our coaches and decided that I could be better used as a left-handed slapper,” Bailey said. “It was kind of like going your whole life writing right-handed and then, before the biggest test of your life, maybe the ACT, they tell you that you have to take the test left-handed. That is how I felt about it at first.”
Bailey joined the Lady Vols after a stellar prep career at Maryville that saw her compile a 26-4 record on the pitching rubber her senior season. She loves her work as coach of the Irish, Bailey said, but her most important job is as a mom to 2-year-old daughter Halle Kate.
“There is nothing harder than being a parent,” she said. “With all the goals I’ve accomplished in my lifetime, the most important one is being a good parent. I want to raise her to be a good person and to be more successful than I ever was.”
It may be hard for Halle to have the same sort of success on the diamond as her mom, but she is getting a head start in developing her skills. She’s already playing in an area wee-ball league, her third birthday still six months away.