"A Strong Ability To Come Back" - Chattanooga State Softball Ready For NJCAA Tournament
Wednesday, May 18, 2022 - by Joseph Dycus
- photo by Joseph Dycus
Chattanooga State’s Tigers scrimmaged against one another on a sunny and muggy Wednesday afternoon. The conditions weren’t the most pleasant, but it was downright paradisal compared to the conditions the team will be competing in less than a week.
The Tigers softball team will travel to Yuma, Ariz. For the NJCAA tournament. After bowing out in last season’s tournament, this year’s group is certain the 2022 team will go all the way.
“I think this year’s team has a lot of different ways to produce runs,” sophomore outfielder Katlin Leverette says.
“We can hit home runs, we can bunt, and we know how to play in different situations. We’re also just close as a team and have each other’s backs if it comes down to it.”
Among the other sophomores are headliners such as NJCAA steals leader Camryn Cernuto and ace pitcher Samantha Ryan, who are back for another run in the desert. But the Tigers also have a cohort of freshmen who have made an impact. One of those is center fielder Reagan Hartley, a speedster who is ready for Arizona.
She had an integral role in Chattanooga State’s multiple comebacks during the region tournament. The Tigers rallied against Motlow State in the first round, Cleveland State in the second and Vol State in the semifinal. These results were evidence of the resolve the Tigers possess.
“I think we do have a strong ability to come back in games, and we’re good at it because we practice (for those situations),” Hartley says. “I think we do have an advantage with that, because a lot of teams seem to get down when other teams score on them. I think we’re good at staying up and producing runs when we’re down.”
The Tigers’ many comebacks happened within the comfy confines of Chatt State’s campus. The team will travel west, which is far away from the Scenic City and anywhere many of the freshmen have played. One of those freshmen is Jade Gainer, the regular third baseman whose glove is a vacuum at third base.
“I’m excited because I’ve never been in this situation before. In high school we went to state, but that was nothing like this,” Jade Gainer says. “I’ve never really been out of this area, so going to Arizona is really exciting. I’m losing sleep thinking about how I’m going to do up there with the team.”
Her twin sister Amber was the star of the region tournament, hitting three home runs in the four games. These home runs usually came at crucial moments and gave Chattanooga the lead during those aforementioned rallies.
“When we went inside, we asked Amber if she needed a massage because she carried the team on her back,” Gainer says. “As a sister, I was very excited for her, and a little jealous. But I was excited for her to have that moment.”
There might be an opportunity for another Chatt State player to “have that moment” in Yuma. The Tigers scrimmaged against the reserves in the afternoon, and there is a good chance one of those players will play a pivotal role during one of the games. Leverette threw out the name of one teammate who might make headlines in the desert.
“Whenever we had a situation where we needed a hit, we’ve put Rayleigh Thagard in,” Leverette says, “and she did a great job getting a hit when we needed it.”
Chattanooga State should know their opponent’s identity in the next few days. The tournament starts on Tuesday and runs through Saturday of next week.
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