Chattanoogan Senior Spotlight: Walker Valley Softball

“The Fantastic Four” Lead The Lady Mustangs On And Off The Field

Tuesday, March 31, 2020 - by Kevin Llewallyn
Walker Valley softball is led on and off the field by four talented seniors. From left to right, pitcher Natalie Pruitt, centerfielder Katelyn Howell, left fielder Carissa Frost and shortstop Laney Harris.
Walker Valley softball is led on and off the field by four talented seniors. From left to right, pitcher Natalie Pruitt, centerfielder Katelyn Howell, left fielder Carissa Frost and shortstop Laney Harris.
- photo by Dennis Norwood/File Photo

Highlighted by a run to the state championship game in 2018, the Walker Valley softball team’s four seniors, who were dubbed “The Fantastic Four” as freshmen, have helped turn the Lady Mustangs into a perennial contender.

 

During their four seasons on the field together, Carissa Frost, Laney Harris, Katelyn Howell, and Natalie Pruitt have led the Lady Mustangs to a record of 92-36-1.

In 2018, as sophomores, they were the state runner-up, losing to Powell 2-1 in the title game in the program’s first state tournament berth since 2005. They were also sectional champs, region runner-up, District 5-3A runner-up, and won the Eastman Tournament earlier in the season.

 

As juniors, they were the district champs for the first time in ten years before falling to Warren County in the region semifinals. They also were the Gulf Coast Classic runner-up.

 

“Ever since this group has come onto the scene as freshmen, they’ve just shown a will to win,” said head coach Lauren Limburg, who has coached all four girls since they were in the sixth grade at Ocoee Middle School. “It has been an honor to watch them grow as players, as young ladies, and as leaders. I’m just as proud of the character they show off the field as I am for the players they are on the field. They have truly left a legacy, and I know they are all meant for something great.”

 

“We talk about our team being a family, and they have been leaders with the way that they’ve loved on their teammates. They’ve lived up to being team captains; it’s hard to have an entire class that is such hard workers, and I can’t think of another class that has worked any harder. They’ve been great examples to the other girls that if you want to play at this level, then this is what you are going to need to do outside of practice to develop into that type of player.”

 

The Lady Mustangs opened their season by winning the Pleasure Island Showdown in Gulf Shores, Alabama. After losing a game early in pool play to Baker High School (Mobile, AL), they eventually got revenge over the Lady Hornets in the championship game 5-2. The Lady Mustangs went 6-1 in the tournament and outscored their opponents 58-8 to win in dominant fashion.

 

All four will continue their softball careers at the college level. Frost and Harris will join forces at Lee University, while Howell and Pruitt will play together at Chattanooga State.

 

Carissa Frost: Left Field

 

Tremendous speed and instincts both on the base path and in the outfield, Frost has wreaked havoc as a baserunner and defensively throughout her career. She was named to the All-State team in 2018 as a sophomore, as well as Best of Preps. Batting lead-off, she has 58 career stolen bases, and swiped eight in the seven tournament games to open the season.

 

“She’s not only been a four-year starter, but has batted lead-off all four years, really setting the tone for our team,” Limburg said. “She has a great eye at the plate, and her speed and instincts on the bases are something you just can’t teach. She’s a force to be reckoned with on the bases. In the outfield, she just glides and it looks so natural. She’s made some great catches and is really willing to give her body for the team. She’s also very humble and selfless, just a great teammate.”

 

Frost also received national attention when she was the ESPN SportsCenter top play on May 25, 2018 for a remarkable home run-robbing catch in the state championship game, where she caught the ball as she leapt over the outfield fence, landing on the other side. Check out the play here: https://twitter.com/dubvsoftball/status/1000255994906185729

 

Career statistics: .401 batting average, five home runs, 140 runs scored, 63 RBIs, and 58 stolen bases

 

Laney Harris: Shortstop

 

A complete player, Harris hits for both power and average while showing outstanding range from the shortstop position. A three-sport star – she also excelled at volleyball and basketball – Harris was named to the All-State team in 2019, as well as Best of Preps in both 2018 and 2019. Harris went 5-of-16 with a grand slam home run, four RBIs, and two stolen bases to open the season.

 

“Laney plays so smooth at shortstop; we are just amazed every day at the plays she’s able to make. She makes the plays she’s supposed to make, but also the plays that make us say wow,” said Limburg. “At the plate, she does it all. She bats for average, power, has speed; not only has she driven in a lot of runs, but she’s scored just as many. She has all the tools that make a great hitter.”

 

Career statistics: .422 batting average, .661 slugging percentage, 16 home runs, 131 runs scored, and 131 RBIs

 

Katelyn Howell: Center Field

 

Hitting for power in the middle of the Lady Mustangs’ line-up, Howell also shows range in the outfield, as well as a strong throwing arm. Batting clean-up this season, Howell got off to a terrific start, going 7-for-16 with two doubles, five RBIs, 11 runs scored, and two stolen bases.

 

“Katelyn has so much power at the plate, and tremendous range in the outfield with a very accurate arm,” Limburg said. “It has been fun to watch her grow and improve over the past four years and really hold down that center field spot. I’ve really been impressed with how much she has stepped up this season as a teammate and leader as well, and hearing how much the rest of the girls admire her and her work ethic. Katelyn and Carissa have played together for seven years now, and they work so seamlessly beside each other. It’s really neat to watch them play together, and if a ball is hit out there in the air I feel completely confident that one of them is going to get to it and make the play.”

 

Career statistics: .339 batting average, eight home runs, 87 runs scored, and 78 RBIs.

 

Natalie Pruitt: Pitcher

 

The left-handed hurler leads the Lady Mustangs in the circle, and her composure and control have been the primary reason for her remarkable pitching success. The southpaw pitched every game in the postseason the past two years, and had an exceptional start to this season. She went 5-1 in the season-opening tournament, giving up just four earned runs with 21 strikeouts in 22 innings pitched.

 

“The thing that stands out the most about Natalie is her presence and composure on the mound,” said Limburg. “By her facial expressions and body language, you can’t tell if a girl just hit a homerun off of her or struck out. The other girls on the field truly look to her because she never gets rattled. She has tremendous movement and speed on her pitches, and is such a hard worker. She also has such a kind and loving spirit; her teammates just think the world of her.”

 

Career statistics: 61-22 record, 2.27 ERA, and 329 strikeouts (to just 52 walks in 472.1 innings pitched)

 

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 kevin.llewallyn@gmail.com. Also, share this article and others like it from this series on social media using #ChattanooganSeniorSpotlight.

Prior to the current season being suspended, the Lady Mustangs played in and won the Pleasure Island Showdown in Gulf Shores, Ala. Walker valley outscored their opponents by 58-8 during the tournament.
Prior to the current season being suspended, the Lady Mustangs played in and won the Pleasure Island Showdown in Gulf Shores, Ala. Walker valley outscored their opponents by 58-8 during the tournament.
- photo by Contributed

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