Tennessee Tech next step for Sherman
By Marcus Fitzsimmons | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
There were two firsts, a second and not even a third of a cake remaining at the end Wednesday in the Heritage gymnasium after McKenzie Sherman officially accepted her walk-on offer to play softball for Tennessee Technological University.
The senior with the big bat — 24 RBI and 10 extra bag connections with five of those clearing the fences in her 35 hits last season — has the academic scholarships in place that TTU could offer the catcher a walk-on spot in Cookeville for spring 2014.
It was the first step to the next level for Sherman and also the first time she’s traded the catcher’s gear for four-inch heels for anything involving softball.
“This is a first, for softball,” Sherman said with a smile. “I don’t think they would work out too well on the field. I could try but it might not go over so well with coach.”
Heritage softball coach Mark Dowlen agreed on that count before adding, “It’s always nice to see them dress up outside of a softball uniform, I’ve never seen in her shoes like that before.”
Not that the veteran skipper of the Lady Mountaineers was going to begrudge anything from his all-district catcher on her big day where the cameras flashed continually and two cakes were barely enough for the crowd of well-wishers who came to show their support. Dowlen has seen how hard Sherman has worked to get to this point that she’ll become just the second Lady Mountaineer — Kara Murr’s spot at fellow OVC member Tennessee State being the first — heading to the 1-AA level for college ball.
“Sometimes it’s hard to get them to see the rewards when they are out at the batting cage with dad, or mom’s driving them to practice or coach is getting on to them for something, but I’m glad to see it pay off for her. She has worked so hard at Heritage to earn a reward like this,” Dowlen told the audience.
Sherman agreed with the sentiment and the sense of reward that went with making her decision official.
“It’s very true sometimes you wonder why you’re putting in all this work and then you see that the hours you’ve worked do have a reward, that because of all the time, tears and sweat I’ve put in that they do want me to come play college softball. It is a great reward,” Sherman told The Daily Times. “Coach (Tory) Acheson has been persistent in inviting me to camps and to come see the campus. To me, that means he does want me to play for him. Walk on trying to get a scholarship, I’ll take that chance. Yeah, I’m not getting an athletic scholarship, yet, but I’m still getting to do what I love to do for four more years. There’s still the potential to earn that scholarship is the way I look at it.”
The Golden Eagles went 22-26 and 13-16 in OVC play last year. There are holes to be filled in the lineup after Tech lost 10 of its 22 lettermen from the spring while bringing in only seven new players for 2013. Academics are a key component to Acheson’s program, so Sherman’s academic ride is even more of a plus for TTU, where the softball team ranked fifth in the nation for combined team GPA among all Division I softball programs for the fifth consecutive year last season.
Tech hasn’t yet talked position details with the Heritage senior, but having her power available in the lineup was an obvious enticement. Getting her softball future secured was all the incentive Sherman needed to focus harder on her senior season.
“It’s big motivation to continue getting better,” the senior said. “I want to go out with a bang in my senior year.”
It’s music to her current coach’s ears as he looks at a talented roster that, despite some losses, is ready to contend when March rolls around with several more seniors signing college papers possible.
“I see more excitement in her eyes this year maybe than even last year now that she knows softball is going to continue for her,” Dowlen said. “She had that dream where she eats, breathes, and sleeps softball. She really had to struggle through the offseason with knee surgery and just kept straining at the bit to get back on the field, she’s already been to the batting cage on her own. I think more than anything this has motivated her for her senior year and that’s a time when you’re just as likely to lose kids and their focus. This has really fired the spark up for her to take advantage of what she has left in high school before she takes the step up.”
Steps now insured to be made in cleats but with the heels not too far away.