Baylor junior catcher Cassi Pickett had in mind where she wanted to play softball in college and patiently waited, hoping to get that opportunity. Last Thursday, East Tennessee State obliged.
Pickett spent the day on campus in Johnson City and later was given a scholarship offer and accepted.
"It was my first visit and I really knew where I wanted to go," Pickett said. "I didn't talk to any other schools at all. I went up there and met up with some friends. I liked it in that it's not that far but far enough away from home. I knew it was a program that was building. I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to play there."
Pickett has battled a shoulder problem and had labrum surgery in October 2011. Because of that she wasn't able to get behind the plate at the beginning of last season, but she was still able to swing a bat.
Pickett hit .464 for the Divsion II-AA state champions, striking out five times in 112 at-bats.
"She's probably got the best eyes and hands of any kid I've ever seen," said Tad Andrus, her summer coach the last two years with the Tennessee Fury '95.
Pickett also hit with power, homering seven times and registering a team-high 20 doubles. She drove in 52 runs.
"She's the most clutch hitter I've ever coached," Baylor's Kelli Smith said. "She does her best work with two strikes. Sometimes she'd get her second strike, look down the line at me, there'd be a little smile, then she'd rip a double in the gap for a couple of RBIs."
Smith said by late March she was able to work back in defensively with batterymate and Carson-Newman signee Kaitie Sims. The Baylor coaches allowed Pickett to call the pitches, even when she wasn't catching.
"I think she just felt like a more complete player when she got back in there catching," Smith said. "As much as she meant to us offensively, she was that important to us defensively as well."
The friends Pickett knows at ETSU are Madison Boyd, Bethany Cowart and Jackie Baird -- all former Fury players. Pickett said she's known and admired Baird, a catcher who played on a U.S. international team last summer, since they were in middle school and high school, respectively.
"I think she'll be one of those kids who ends up coaching," Andrus said. "She likes the integral part of the game; the strategical part of the game. I don't know that she could ever get away from it."
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.