MURFREESBORO, Tenn.-Brittany Lanham came thisclose to claiming a unique pair of softball state championships Friday.
Having already helped Gordon Lee win the Georgia Class A state title last fall, Lanham missed out on her second championship of the school year when Soddy-Daisy lost 2-1 in eight innings in the Tennessee AAA final Friday night.
Lanham grew up in the Soddy-Daisy area but moved to Georgia to live with her father last fall. While living there, she attended Gordon Lee and helped the Lady Trojans to a 38-0 season, the first time in state history a team capped a title season unbeaten.
Just before the winter semester, Lanham, a freshman outfielder, moved back in with her mother and transferred to Soddy-Daisy High, where she had played until middle school.
"I knew as soon as she transferred back in that she would be starting for us real early," Lady Trojans coach Clifford Kirk said. "She's the best we've got in the outfield defensively.
"I think it helped her to play at Gordon Lee, just to see some varsity competition before she came back here. It's usually a pretty big adjustment coming to the varsity at our level, but she had already seen a lot of good teams back in the fall."
Lanham, who has played all three outfield positions, went 7-for-14 at the plate in the state tournament, including 3-4 in Friday afternoon's win over Riverdale that moved Soddy-Daisy into the championship round. Kirk was so confident in the freshman that he moved her up from sixth to third in the batting order, a move that paid off immediately when Lanham delivered an RBI in the bottom of the first inning in Friday's title game.
"I'm not surprised at all that she is playing so well for them," Gordon Lee coach Dana Mull said. "I could see her getting better every day when she played with us. Her confidence grew so much from the time she started with us until the end of the season. She learned to be patient at the plate and had some really key at-bats for us late in the season. She's got all the potential in the world to be a really good player.
"She would have started for us next year, so we hated to lose her. But I know she had lived in that area all her life. I figured when she went to that program that she would have a real good chance of playing for another championship, because they're in it about every year."
With all but three starters returning, the Lady Trojans again will be prohibitive favorites to return to next year's state tournament. And while she couldn't make it a two-state sweep this year, Lanham said getting back here and helping Soddy-Daisy play again for its eighth state title is something she fully expects to happen.
"I think playing at Gordon Lee prepared me for this type competition," Lanham said. "It was easier going through a state tournament the second time. I was a lot more calm and patient.
"I didn't know I would play as much as I did when I came back to Soddy-Daisy, but I was pretty confident once I started getting into the games. I just felt like I had been through it all before. I've seen them win championships last year, and I really wanted to be a part of helping them win it again. I've never heard of anybody doing that before. It would have been pretty neat."