The Valdosta Daily Times
Over the last two years, Cara Parker, Heather Robinson, Tiffany Bishop, Kendall Holland and Chelsea Mefford have helped Lowndes’ softball team win a lot of games.
Now they are preparing to play softball in college.
Parker, Robinson, Bishop, Holland and Mefford have all made commitments to play for colleges next season.
“Words can’t express (how proud I am of these girls),” Lowndes head coach Stewart Thomas said. “The girls have worked so hard to get to this point, so this day is that much more special. I know the amount of effort they’ve put into it, and the time.”
The five players helped Lowndes win 39 games over the last two years. The Vikettes won the Region 1-5A championship in 2011 and made the playoffs both years.
“(This team has) meant a lot to me,” Mefford said. “For the past four years, I have loved this program. It’s a very amazing program. I wouldn’t (want to play high school softball) without these girls, all my eight seniors.”
“It’s definitely a special group,” Thomas said. “Even though I’ve only had them for one year, you can just tell (how special they are). We’re losing eight seniors that were a huge part of our program for the past four years.”
Parker, a shortstop, has signed a letter of intent to play for Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C.
“It’s a good program. And it’s D-I,” she said.
Parker played two seasons at Lowndes (after spending two years at Bartram Trail High School in Jacksonville, Fla.), and had two big years for the Vikettes. This year, she hit .416 with five home runs, 25 runs batted in, 15 doubles, two triples, a .505 on-base percentage and a .792 slugging percentage. She was an All-State selection and a two-time All-Region selection at Lowndes. Her .416 batting average this season is the fourth-highest ever for a Lowndes player, and her 14 career home runs is the fourth-most at LHS.
“I have really enjoyed playing at Lowndes High School,” Parker said. “It’s been a real big opportunity to have met a lot of people that I became really close to. I got to play for Coach Thomas; he’s a really good coach. The atmosphere’s really good at Lowndes; everybody’s expected to win, and it’s really a cool thing.”
“Cara has a passion for the game that you don’t see very often,” Thomas said. “She takes pride in the fact that nobody’s going to outwork her. That’s going to carry with her next year at Appalachian State, and I truly believe that’s the reason she’s going to be successful.”
Robinson, a third baseman, has signed with Division II national champion Valdosta State.
“I know I’m going to a good program, so it’s kind of exciting,” Robinson said. “I want to get better. As hard as (the Valdosta State players) work, I know I’ll get better. I’ve been going to hitting facilities with (VSU head coach Thomas Macera) for years now, and he’s taught me my swing. I can’t thank him enough for that, because he’s made me the player I am today.”
This season, Robinson batted .377 with eight home runs, 22 RBIs and eight doubles. She is one of only four players in Lowndes softball history to hit eight or more home runs in a season (along with Parker, who hit nine in 2011, and former LHS standouts Keri Tompkins and Sarah Santana). She was a first-team All-Region selection in 2011 and 2012.
“She works hard every day,” Thomas said. “She pushes herself very hard in the weight room, in the batting cages and it’s very exciting to see that goal that she’s had for so long come true today.”
Robinson will be the second member of her family to play softball for the Blazers. Her sister, Krystle Robinson Farlow, pitched for VSU in 2011.
Bishop is the latest in a long line of outstanding pitchers to come through Lowndes (since 2000, 12 LHS pitchers have signed with colleges). This season, Bishop led the team in wins and had a 1.64 earned run average. She struck out 93 batters and had a WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) of 0.85. She was a first-team All-Region selection (after being a second-team All-Region selection as a second baseman in 2011).
“Tiffany is a competitor,” Thomas said. “She’s going to work hard at (being a good softball player).”
Like Robinson, Bishop will be following in her older sister’s footsteps. Bishop’s sister, Dionne, played two seasons at Darton (her other sister, Heather, played for ABAC).
And like her oldest sister, Bishop will be heading to Darton with her best friend. Dionne and her best friend, Sadee Scarborough, played together at Darton. And Tiffany will get to play with her best friend, Kendall Holland.
“I’m really excited,” Bishop said. “I’m not going to be nervous, as I would if I didn’t know anyone (on the team).”
“I’m ready to take on my college adventure with my best friend,” Holland said.
Holland has been Lowndes’ right fielder the last two years, and has been an All-Region selection both years. This year, she batted .296 with two home runs, 18 runs batted in and four doubles.
“Kendall Holland is one of the storylines of the season,” Thomas said. “(Her success) is not a surprise, to me especially, but it shows that when you put in the effort and the work, in the end, it pays off. That’s her story, because she worked hard, and this is the payoff for all that hard work.”
Bishop and Holland have verbally committed to Darton, but junior college rules do not permit them to officially sign until January.
Mefford will be joining Robinson on the national champion Valdosta State Blazers.
“I am very excited to sign (with VSU),” Mefford said. “My hitting would not be where it is today without (Macera’s) help. And my defense, either.”
Mefford moved to center field this year, and was a first-team All-Region selection. She also batted .381 with four doubles, one triple, 16 RBIs and a .378 slugging percentage.
“She’s come into her own (this year), especially in the outfield,” Thomas said. “She’s taken a leadership role, and that’s going to carry a long way for her next year.”