By Mike Blackerby
From Powell to Gibbs to Blount County, softball frenzy is sweeping through the Knoxville area.
“Some of the best softball players in the state live in a 30-minute radius of us,” said Sarah Fekete Bailey, Alcoa High School’s new softball coach.
Bailey said there’s no reason Alcoa can’t be successful at a high level in the sport, too.
The former Maryville and Tennessee softball player replaces Mike Brown who retired after five seasons as coach of the Lady Tornadoes.
“I’m really excited about this opportunity at Alcoa,” said the 34-year-old Bailey, who coached at Catholic for the last eight seasons.
Bailey said everything is in place at Alcoa for the Lady Tornadoes to have a say in Class AA softball, both locally and at the state level.
“Their facilities are phenomenal and they really take pride in their athletics all the way around,” offered Bailey.
Alcoa was 23-9 last season, losing to perennial state power Gibbs in regional play.
Bailey is certainly no stranger to elite-level softball.
After earning all-state honors at Maryville in high school, she was twice an All-American at Tennessee and led the nation in hitting in 2006.
She credits UT co-head coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly and the success of the Lady Vols as big reasons for the explosion of high school softball in the area.
“A lot of it has to do with the success of the Lady Vols and the SEC,” explained Bailey.
“When I was growing up I wanted to play basketball for Pat Summitt, but I wasn’t tall enough. (Softball) came around at the right moment.”
Bailey said she hopes to impart things she has learned along the way to her players at Alcoa.
“I’ve had the awesome experience of playing for some of the best coaches in the nation,” said Bailey.
“I want to convey my love of the game to the kids. I want them to be strong, intelligent young women when they leave the program. It’s really about bringing out the best in them.”
More softball coaching news
Maryville High athletics director Larry Headrick announced the promotion of Nick Payne from assistant coach to head coach. He replaces coach David Allen, who took over the program in summer 2010. He coached eight seasons and made three state tournament appearances.
Clinton athletics director Brad Collette officially announced the softball coaching job as vacant Monday on Twitter. Lecia Watson had previously served in that role for two seasons.
Garrison resigns at Oak Ridge baseball coach
Mark Garrison is ending a quarter-of-a-century association with Oak Ridge baseball to transition into an administrative post at Robertsville Middle School.
ORHS athletic director Mike Mullins confirmed earlier today that Garrison has tendered his resignation as coach of the Wildcats.
“Coach Garrison’s impact on the Oak Ridge High School baseball program has been significant during his 25-year tenure as an assistant and head coach,” said Mullins.
“He passionately led with class and integrity even during the most difficult times. He is one of those rare coaches who has the unique ability to step back and see the big picture. The search for his successor will begin immediately.”
Garrison served as an assistant coach at Oak Ridge for 19 seasons – first under Nelson Glover and then under Tom Froning – before being named head coach following Froning’s resignation after the 2013 season.
Seymour baseball star Nate Payne makes college choice
Nate Payne, one of the baseball heroes during Seymour’s run to the Class AAA state semifinals in late May, confirmed a report on Twitter that he will continue his career at Roane State.
The right-hander pitched Seymour past state powerhouse Farragut in the state sectionals, securing the Eagles in the state tournament for the first time since 2007. Once there, he won Game 2 for the Eagles, striking out 14 in eight innings and walking two.