By MIKE BLACKERBY
Farragut junior Avery Flatford was spectacular, from her opening pitching performance of the 2021 softball season all the way to the final out of the state Class AAA tournament.
By any measuring stick, the 5Star Preps Pitcher of the Year turned in one of the most eye-opening seasons in the annals of Tennessee prep softball in leading Farragut to its first state championship since 1982.
“It was pretty amazing,” said Lady Admirals coach Nick Green.
“We had big expectations for her, but we also had our concerns.”
Those concerns had nothing to do with Flatford’s pitching acumen.
There was her well-documented situation living with cystic fibrosis.
Flatford was also coming off shoulder surgery before the 2020 season, which was lost to COVID.
Green knew going into the 2021 season that they’d have to be smart about handling Flatford’s workload.
“We were concerned about the amount of days and innings we’d pitch her in a week,” said Green.
“She had less than 100 innings of pitching going into the postseason. We did that by picking and choosing which games she would be in. I feel like we did a pretty good job with that.”
Flatford was well rested heading into tournament time after going 12-0 during the regular season.
She picked up 10 of Farragut’s 11 victories in the postseason.
Included in the run were four consecutive wins in the state tournament where Flatford pitched every inning.
“Her ability to pitch four consecutive games in a row was big,” said Green.
“You could tell she was getting tired, but she gutted it out and gave us a chance to win.”
Flatford said the lighter workload during the regular season allowed her to shine come tournament time.
“It was super important,” Flatford said.
“I appreciate our younger pitchers going out there. It allowed me to be at my best every game.”
Flatford seemingly brought her A game almost every time she pitched during the course of the season.
She went 22-0, throwing three no-hitters.
Flatford struck out all 15 batters she faced in a five-inning win over David Crockett.
She set a Farragut single-game strikeout mark with 19 Ks in a win over William Blount.
Her final stats look like misprints: 279 strikeouts in 141 innings, 10 shutouts, a 1.34 ERA.
Flatford didn’t pitch in the Lady Admirals’ two losses – a 9-8 defeat to Wilson Central and a 2-0 loss to Union County where Farragut played all freshmen and sophomores.
But Flatford certainly had plenty of help, and she’s quick to deflect the attention away from her.
The Lady Admirals had a collective team batting average of .438, were successful in 124 of 136 stolen base attempts and committed just 12 errors on the season.
Flatford said team chemistry was a big key to Farragut’s 37-2 finish, which ended with a 4-2 win over Coffee County in the state championship game.
“I could feel it (chemistry) and it definitely kept growing,” said Flatford.
“We started winning games we didn’t win my freshman year. We had a totally different mindset.”
So what do Farragut and Flatford do for an encore in 2022?
The Lady Admirals basically return their entire starting lineup, except for standout third baseman Cameron Young.
“We’re going to miss Cameron, but I still feel we have a pretty good chance (to repeat),” said Flatford.
“But we need to keep working for it. I feel like I can improve. It won’t just be handed to us.”