Friday's pool play
6-Baylor vs. Columbia Academy; Meigs County vs. Central; East Hamilton vs. Whitwell; Polk County vs. Arts & Sciences
7:30-Baylor vs. Grace Academy; Meigs County vs. Marion County; Columbia Academy vs. Whitwell; GPS vs. Arts & Sciences
9-Sale Creek vs. Grace Academy; Brentwood High vs. Central; East Hamilton vs. East Hickman; Polk County vs. Jefferson County
Baylor's softball program has faced many tough opponents over the years, but none more merciless than than the one it and the 14 other high school teams the Lady Red Raiders invited to Warner Park this weekend will be taking on.
Baylor is hosting its first Hits for Hope tournament to promote breast-cancer awareness. The money raised through the tournament will be donated to the MaryEllen Locher Foundation Scholarship Fund, which provides scholarship money to children of a parent, living or dead, who has been diagnosed with breast cancer.
A total of 12 pool-play games will be played Friday scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. The remaining 12 pool games are Saturday morning slated to start at 8. Single-elimination is set for 1 p.m. The final is scheduled for 7.
Baylor joined forces with neighboring Red Bank last year and held a Hits for Hope game. Coach Kelli Smith said that event raised about $3,500, which was forwarded to social workers to help breast-cancer patients at a local hospital with their everyday expenses.
The Lady Raiders basketball team was involved with the first three Hoops for Hope tournaments before the event was moved to Signal Mountain this past winter. Billenda Nabors, who for 16 years was friends with Locher up until her death from breast cancer in 2005, was chairperson for Hoops for Hope the years Baylor was involved.
Nabors said Susan Wilson, wife of Baylor headmaster Scott Wilson, approached her about fulfilling a similar role in the softball project. The Wilsons and Smith volunteered time with Nabors and Hoops for Hope.
"I was thinking about doing a tournament, but something was holding me back," Smith said. "I needed somebody like Billenda. When she agreed to come on board, I said, 'Let's do it.' Billenda Nabors and Susan Wilson have been working behind the scenes on this every day since September, making things happen. It's been really neat to see how hands come together and make things fall in place."
Fighting breast cancer is of particular importance to Baylor's softball program because senior shortstop and pitcher Sarah Moore's mother, Kelly, is currently fighting the disease.
"I've known Kelli Howard-Smith since she was a softball player," Nabors said. "Kelli had said she'd been wanting to do one of these for a long time. It's the right time, and the right place. Susan Wilson is a softball mom, as well as the headmaster's wife. We all wanted to do something for Kelly, who's suffering from breast cancer."
The last time Baylor hosted Hoops for Hope, Nabors said the donation to the MaryEllen Locher Foundation scholarship fund ended up being about $19,500. The softball program is hoping for similar results.
Donations have already begun, including sponsorship of the four fields that will be used. Sales of contributed T-shirts have already begun and they will continue to be sold throughout the weekend.
"We obviously all want to have a great softball teams and strive for state championships," Smith said. "But only a few girls will go on to play in college. After that, it's life. We try to teach the kids about building character. We want them to be passionate about being involved in some kind of community service.
"It can be through your talent, or something as simple as giving your time. We all become so isolated in our little world. What we happen to do is softball. This is our opportunity."
And she hopes it's the first of many.
"I think the Baylor School has a heart when it comes to giving back to the community," Nabors said. "I think Kelli Howard-Smith is committed. We hope a lot of people come out this weekend to help out with the cause, and to watch some great softball."
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.