John Shearer: Former GPS Students Play On University Of Tennessee Softball Team

Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - by John Shearer
Whitney Hammond
Whitney Hammond
- photo by University of Tennessee

The University of Tennessee softball team is getting ready to host the NCAA regionals Friday against Longwood University of Virginia after a 44-10 record and a second-place finish in the Southeastern Conference.

Finishing near the top is a familiar place for the Lady Vols in recent years.

Just as familiar to softball fans from Chattanooga are some of the faces on the team, including two this year. And no, we are not talking about UT co-head coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly, who either jointly or individually headed up the UTC softball program from the 1995 season through 2001.

This season Tennessee has had junior Tory Lewis of Chattanooga as a starting center-fielder for much of the year and fellow Girls Preparatory School graduate Whitney Hammond as a key reserve.

After being slowed early in the year by a concussion-related injury, Lewis is batting .277 as a starter in most of the games and has been a key contributor in the field with her athleticism. In the April 1 game against Western Carolina, for example, she made a great shoestring catch and then threw out the runner who had been on first base for a double play.

As Karen Weekly said after that game, “You don’t see too many center-fielders who can make that kind of play or cover that kind of ground and track the ball like that and have the arm to make that kind of play.”

Hammond, meanwhile, has seen action in 31 games and started 11 of them. She is batting .233 this year for a career average of .271, but has contributed as well in intangible ways, often with her speed.

She drew a walk and scored a run in a big win over traditional SEC power Alabama on March 8, and had two stolen bases against Murray State on March 19.

Karen Weekly has praises for the two players’ speed, which was also a talent of Lillian Hammond, the older sister of Whitney and a Lady Vol from 2006-09. The coach also hinted that she and her husband like to show a little speed as well heading back down to Chattanooga whenever they learn of a good recruit.

“She (Tory) and Whitney have brought a lot of speed to the program, and that’s what they do best,” she said. “(GPS) is a great program and we know they are well coached. It is kind of a coincidence they have all three been speed players.

“We like Chattanooga and we like it as an area to recruit.”

Lewis and Whitney Hammond, in turn, have enjoyed coming up to Knoxville and getting to play for one of the country’s best college softball programs.

“Everybody dreams of coming out and playing for a big school, and to come out here and do what everybody’s been wanting to do all their lives, it’s really fun,” said Lewis, the daughter of Tara Short and stepdaughter of former Tennessee football standout Eric Westmoreland.

For Hammond, the fact that the school is close to home has added to the enjoyment, even though she could have likely been an even bigger contributor at a smaller or less successful school with not as much talent.

“This is like the dream right here – one of the best schools in the country is an hour and a half away from where I come from,” said the daughter of Dr. John and Dr. Sabrina Hammond. “It’s pretty awesome.”

Both Hammond and Lewis feel as though they were prepared well for the competitive atmosphere at UT in softball and academics from their experiences at GPS. Both played multiple high school sports, including volleyball, and both made academic honor lists at the girls’ college preparatory school.

“It definitely helped me learn how to balance athletics and school work,” said Hammond. “I played two sports at GPS, so year-round I was in and out of the weight room and practice and school and games.

“It helped me get used to what life is like here at UT where you are a student athlete all year long.”

Both also appreciate the training under GPS coach Susan Crownover.

“She was my softball coach and my basketball coach and like my other mother,” said Lewis. “I still call her mom.”

Jcshearer2@comcast.net

 

Tory Lewis
Tory Lewis
- Photo2 by University of Tennessee


McCallie Wins Mid-South Track Invitational

On a beautiful Saturday afternoon McCallie hosted 24 schools at the McCallie Mid-South Track Invitational.  McCallie scored 169 points to outdistance Franklin High 91 pts and Murfreesboro Oakland 83 pts.  Alabama teams Ft. Payne and Guntersville finished 4th and 5th.  McCallie got off to a fast start with weight men Dre Taylor, Quindarius Dunnigan and Wyatt Hughes ... (click for more)

2018 Mid-South Track Invitational Results

Varsity Boys 100 Meters Finals ==============================================================================  Athlete Yr Team Mark ==============================================================================  1 Jarious Johnson 12 Franklin County 11.27   2 Brevin Sims 10 Arts & Sciences (Chattano 11.35   3 Nick DeBoer 11 Rhea County ... (click for more)

Robert Gillisse Was Pilot Killed In Plane Crash At Collegedale Airport

The pilot who was killed in a plane crash on the runway of the Collegedale Airport on Friday evening has been identified as Robert Gillisse, 62, of Ooltewah . Charles Swain, who is the director of the airport, said the plane was a total loss. It was a single-occupant plane. He said the plane was taking off when it crashed. He said Mr. Gillisse frequently had flown out of ... (click for more)

East Ridge To Build Open-Air Pavilion Near City Hall

East Ridge plans to construct an open-air pavilion that will include restrooms and a concession area near City Hall and the old McBrien School.  It will be part of a Town Center for East Ridge at the Tombras Avenue property. The city is also applying for a $500,000 grant to help convert Pioneer Park into a refurbished park with a splash pad. The firm of Hefferlin and ... (click for more)

A Tribute For My Brother – Sgt. Jonathan Gardner, U.S. Army

Seven years ago today, my family and I found out that my brother, Sgt. Jonathan D. Gardner, was seriously injured by a roadside bomb, (explosively formed penetrator - EFP), while on a mission in Kuwait. The EFP went through the bottom of his seat and put a softball size hole in his upper thigh. The doctors said that if the bomb had entered the Humvee an inch to the right, he ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Saturday Funnies

All of us who marvel at the sound of bagpipes at a funeral realize the majesty that people like piper Scottie Maclellan can lend to any “homecoming” and for years there has been a wonderful tale out of Nova Scotia that leads this week’s parade of The  Saturday  Funnies. Mind you, I do not write these stories, as many who have followed man’s laughter down through the ... (click for more)