Jacqueline Sanchez played only one year of basketball at Chattanooga State, but it was memorable. The Lady Tigers got to the NJCAA national semifinals under coach Melvin Williams that year, 2002, and Sanchez averaged 12 points and nine rebounds before returning to her home region and playing three years for California in Berkeley.
She returned from Northern California with several family members, plus an aunt from Nevada, for the second Chattanooga State Athletic Hall of Fame induction dinner Friday night at the Walden Club. She became the school’s first women’s basketball Hall of Famer.
Also inducted were baseball pitcher Kerry Lacy and softball slugger India Turner.
Jay Price, who coached both Chattanooga State basketball teams to national tournaments this year, was the main speaker, and he had a special guest: Wade Houston, his coach at the University of Tennessee.
Price said Houston “has agreed to help us do some mentoring and help our kids academically.”
Lacy, who starred at North Sand Mountain High School, played one season for the Tigers under coach Bob Brotherton before being drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 15th round in 1991. Known for a fastball that reached 98 mph, he reached the big leagues with Boston in 1996 and ’97 and played professionally until 2002.
After marrying a Dade County girl, he settled on Lookout Mountain in Georgia and gives private baseball lessons. He and Carolyn were accompanied Friday night by their two daughters.
“This is a big honor,” he said before the ceremony, “to get recognized by your old school.”
Turner, who has 3-year-old twins and works locally for BlueCross BlueShield, called it “a great honor, very awesome.”
Softball coach Beth Keylon-Randolph said signing Turner from Ridgeland High was “a big thing.” In fact, the coach added, “When she decided to come play for us, it probably was the biggest moment of our program at that time.”
Turner hit .571 in the Lady Tigers’ 20-0 league season in 2005, with 11 home runs, a 1.206 slugging percentage and 36 RBIs in 63 at-bats. Overall in 2006 she hit .433 with 18 homers, 10 doubles, four triples, eight sacrifice flies, 69 RBIs and 51 runs in 180 at-bats.
“She was intimidating with her size and the way she hit the ball,” Keylon-Randolph said, “but she is one of the nicest people you’ll ever see.”
Sanchez, 27, said she got the letter about the honor about a month ago and was surprised but gratified. She is an assistant coach at a California junior college, helps “tutor and mentor Native American youth” and is a certified international trade specialist for the Center of International Trade Development.
Tigers pitcher Patrick Merkling is a 2011 NJCAA Division I second-team baseball All-American, and shortstop Dylan Coleman from McMinn Central earned honorable mention. They were the only TCCAA players listed on the All-American teams.
Merkling, the TCCAA pitcher of the year from Woodstock, Ga., wound up 11-1 with a 2.00 ERA, 103 strikeouts and 27 walks in 85 1/3 innings. The Baltimore Orioles selected him in the 44th round of this week’s draft. Coleman was the league’s player of the year and wound up tied for ninth in NJCAA Division I with 65 RBIs in 53 games — one in every 2.8 at-bats — to go with a .423 batting average, 48 runs and 14 stolen bases in 15 attempts.