By Tim Chambers
Tomahawk Sports Editor
A trio of Lady Longhorns is currently in the meat and potatoes of their summer softball schedule while other high school athletes observe the TSSAA’s dead period.
Hannah Brooks along with sisters Emmy and Bella Miller are members of the East Tennessee Crush 16 and under softball team that competes in the 18 and under division.
Emmy, an up and coming sophomore earned the Tomahawk’s top newcomer award on the All-Johnson/Carter team after hitting .401 this past season. She said the playing against the older girls has helped her improve as a player.
“I feel like I’ve gotten much better this summer because we are playing against some very good teams,” said Emmy. The game is much faster at this level, and most of the pitchers we face can throw the ball hard with good location. You really have to be on top of your game to compete at this level, but I’m glad we’re playing against this type of talent. You have to bring your “A” game.”
Emmy was the starting catcher on the varsity squad for the entire season. She said that making the jump from junior high to high school was an eye-opening experience.
“The speed is much different at the high school level, and all the players can hit the ball,” added Emmy. “The games can be longer, and you play nearly every day. You don’t get many cheap hits in the league that we play in. All the teams have very good athletes.”
Her sister Bella will be one of the few seniors on this year’s squad. She likes the role of being the team leader and loves having her sister and Hannah on the Crush.
“We all played together when we were younger, so it’s fun getting to relive that,” said Bella. “We’ve played in four tournaments so far and finished second in our last one. The games didn’t end until after midnight, and we played all day. I think it might have been the best that we’ve played.”
Hannah is a rising junior who has already caught the eye of several high school coaches. She was intentionally walked 14 times by one team in four games during the season and hit .513 with eight homers.
She said that choosing to play all summer was an easy decision for her.
“I love the game, and we play our hearts out,” said Brooks about her summer team. “I love to compete at a high level and playing the teams that we do makes us better players. We have set some high goals as to where we want to finish over the next two seasons, so we have to push ourselves to get better. In travel ball, we play against a lot of older girls who have already signed to play in college. It can be intimidating yet if we can hit off of them then we can definitely hit good high school pitching. I want to get better because this is the sport that I enjoy playing most.”
Each of the three has had to downsize the sports they were participating in. Bella will drop basketball to focus more on volleyball, softball plus her academics.
Hannah, like Bella, plays volleyball and softball. Emmy gave up volleyball to focus on softball and basketball.
“I take pride in my academics, so I dropped basketball to focus more on my studies,” said Bella. “I love playing both sports, but softball is probably my favorite.”
That wasn’t the case for Emmy who gave up volleyball to play basketball and softball only. She earned a starting role as a freshman on the varsity basketball team and averaged nearly eight points and eight rebounds per contest.
“I like softball best, but I do enjoy playing basketball,” added Emmy. “We have some great basketball coaches that do a lot of drills with us. I feel like the conditioning gets me in shape for our softball season. I like to win, so I want to be good at both sports.”
Brooks didn’t have to think long when choosing her sport.
“I would play softball all year long if I could,” said Brooks. “I definitely will look at playing college softball down the road, but I want to keep improving on my game until then.”
Each player is excited about the upcoming softball season, and they all have played for new head coach Greg Reece in junior high. They all believe he will bring new energy to the team.
Like the energy that they bring to the Crush.
The Crush is likely to play in Johnson City this weekend at Wing Deer Park.