To say that the Baylor softball program has been dominant over the past decade would be a vast understatement. All the Red Raiders have done is win eight of the past nine Division II-AA state championships, including the last five. Last season they finished with a record of 42-3 and beat rival GPS 2-1 in the title game in Murfreesboro.
The Red Raiders are led by three outstanding seniors – Macy Ann McKnight, Makayla Packer, and Sophie Piskos – all of which have signed with college softball programs.
Macy Ann McKnight: Pitcher/First Base
McKnight came to Baylor in the sixth grade, and joined the high school softball program as an eighth grader, making her presence known at the plate and in the circle.
During her time with the Red Raiders, the team has 137 wins to just 15 losses, and she entered the season with a chance to become the only Baylor softball player in school history to win five state titles.
McKnight was also the only senior on a basketball team that made a run to the state semifinals. She has signed to play college softball at the University of West Georgia.
“Macy Ann has been so consistent for this program in the circle, at first base, and as a hitter,” said Baylor head coach Kelli Smith. “She’s not flashy; she’ll get the headlines every now and then, but that’s not who Macy Ann is. She’s consistent, solid, dependable, and has been such a huge part of this run that we’re on. As a coaching staff, knowing what it takes to win, there’s been no one more valuable to us than Macy Ann McKnight over the past four years.”
For her career, McKnight has a .338 batting average with 17 home runs, 95 RBIs, and 79 runs scored. She has also amassed a 49-3 record as a pitcher with a 1.71 ERA and 240 strikeouts.
Makayla Packer: Center field
Packer started at Baylor as a freshman, and Smith moved her from the infield to centerfield immediately to make use of her tremendous speed and strong throwing arm. Besides being formidable at the plate, Packer has stolen 39 bases in her three seasons, and has only been thrown out once as a freshman.
Not only a stand-out on the diamond, she also helped lead the Red Raiders to a volleyball championship as a freshman, and has won five track and field state titles – 100 meters (freshman and sophomore), 200 meters (sophomore and junior), and the 800 meter relay (sophomore) – bringing her total state championships to nine.
She has been named Best of Preps in track all three years and in softball her junior year. She was a Scrappy Moore female finalist in track the past two seasons, and was named All-Region and All-State in softball last season. She has signed to play softball at Auburn University next fall.
“Makayla is one of the best athletes I’ve ever coached; she can do anything,” Smith said. “We did a questionnaire with the players in September with the returning players about leadership, and every single person talked about Makayla being the leader because she was someone they trusted and who held them accountable to do what’s right off and on the field.”
“It’s kind of a joke between us. The first week of practice her freshman year I had seen her run a little bit, but I still had no clue how fast she was. We went up to take batting practice, and with her speed I said, ‘Hey, have you ever thought about being a left-handed hitter?’ She just kind of looked at me funny. I told her it was no big deal; she was brand new to our program and I was trying to build a relationship and trust. So I told her no problem, just to get in the box and we’ll see what she’s got. She proceeded to hit about five or six over the fence by close to a hundred feet. I mean, they weren’t just barely going over. I just looked at her and said, ‘Well, I guess that answers my question. You’re a right-handed hitter.’”
For her career, Packer has a .398 batting average with 18 home runs, 84 RBIs, and 102 runs scored.
Sophie Piskos: Catcher
Piskos is a boarding student that came to Baylor as a sophomore from Paris, Tennessee, and she had an immediate and immense impact. In her two years as a Red Raider, she has a .482 batting average with 18 home runs, 92 RBIs, and 82 runs scored. Piskos also helped lead Henry County High School to a third-place finish in the 2017 Class 3A softball state tournament as a freshman.
“Sophie is a really powerful hitter with great speed, and probably has the quickest hands of any kid I’ve ever coached,” said Smith. “She plays the game like the game is supposed to be played, with grit and passion. I always say that if I’m going to battle, Sophie Piskos is my first choice to go with me. I’ve seen her slide into bases like Pete Rose a few times, and I’ve thought that I’m not going to be able to let her run anymore just because I don’t want her to get hurt.”
She played third base during her sophomore season before sliding behind the plate last year and hitting third in the Red Raider lineup. She has signed to play softball with the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns next year.
The Chattanoogan Senior Spotlight series highlights local prep seniors whose seasons have been put on hold due to the unprecedented situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are associated with a high school spring sports team and would like your seniors featured, please encourage the coach to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, share this article and others like it from this series on social media using #ChattanooganSeniorSpotlight.