published Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

Tyler Payne passed on Division I offers for Lee University

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    McCallie School junior Tyler Payne, who plays shortstop as well as pitches, recently committed to NCAA Division II member Lee University despite having scholarship offers from several Division I universities.
    Photo by Angela Lewis.
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Tyler Payne passed up four solid NCAA Division I baseball offers. The McCallie junior decided instead to continue his career at Lee University.

"It's close to home, 30-40 minutes; they were the first school to offer and the first school where I made an official visit," the shortstop said.

His dad, McCallie coach Greg Payne, told Tyler when they left Gordon Lee, "I choose your high school, and McCallie or Baylor is best for you. When you get to the college decision you'll choose, because you'll be very near an adult and wise enough to make that decision."

Young Payne asked for his father's advice but also talked with his academic advisers at McCallie and Kenny Sholl, head of the upper school.

"My dad let me go with it. I asked for his opinion and he gave it, but it was ultimately where I wanted to go," Tyler said.

In choosing Lee, Payne turned down offers from Belmont, Lipscomb, Middle Tennessee State and Tennessee Tech.

"Lee offered back in August -- an offer you don't often see in college baseball, but I told him to go where he felt comfortable and wanted," Greg said. "I think he liked both the Christian and small school environments."

There is some debate on where Tyler will play, some recruiters seeing him as a second baseman and others as a shortstop. The apparent plan for the moment at Lee is for him to start out at second base and then possibly move back to shortstop.

Tyler already was looking beyond that. When asked about his goals down the road, he said, "To get back to McCallie and be a teacher and coach, to be in this community. I've never seen anything like it."

Hixson finalist

For the first time since 2008, Hixson was in the final of its own Wildcat Classic, painting a brighter rather than dismal future. The Wildcats are pulling out of the doldrums.

"We have a great group of seniors and a group of kids that really wants to win. They're pretty resilient," said first-year coach and former Wildcat Colton Green.

They came within a hit of beating McCallie for the championship.

"We went up 2-0 and Alex Prewitt pitched four perfect innings to start the game," Green said. "We got down 6-2 and then scored four and had the running run on third in the bottom of the seventh."

Hixson, 7-5 entering a Monday doubleheader with Howard, has a big game coming up Wednesday at Red Bank. The game, a makeup from last week's rainy days, will start at 7.

Red Bank titlist

Red Bank won the Ooltewah Invitational this past weekend, and the Lions' 4-0 run improved their record to 7-3.

"We had struggled with our hitting with people on base," coach Trey Hicks said. "We're getting some young guys pitching -- two juniors on Thursday and two sophomores on Friday, and we had a junior making his first start give us a complete game against Jackson North Side. This year we're throwing it, letting them put it in play and then playing good defense."

The Lions' entire infield is three-year starters. What Hicks is looking for, he said, is stepped-up consistency in the outfield positions.

Central Invitational

Central's annual invitational tournament is scheduled Thursday through Saturday and will be played at Central and Hixson. Among teams entered in the tournament are Boyd-Buchanan, Clarksville, Cleveland, Murray County, Gwinnett and a team from Key West, Fla. The championship game is scheduled for 8:15 Saturday night at Central.

Soddy-Daisy and Bradley Central will be playing in Riverdale's Warrior Classic in the Murfreesboro area.

Contact Ward Gossett at wgossett@timesfreepress.com or 423-886-4765. Follow him At Twitter.com/wardgossett.

about Ward Gossett...

Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...

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