Meghan Kernea can't imagine life without softball.
As the Hixson High School senior looks forward to her college days, she doesn't have to.
Kernea, a standout catcher for the Wildcats, will get an opportunity to continue her playing career in her own backyard for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She committed to coach Frank Reed's Mocs this past week, and if she follows through by signing, Kernea will join an NCAA Division I program with 15 Southern Conference championships — and one she has "grown up looking up to."
"Ever since I stepped onto the field, I never wanted to stop playing," Kernea said. "I have made so many memories and formed so many great relationships through this game. Committing to UTC is a dream come true. ... I grew up wanting to be just like them. I can't help but believe I have made my younger self proud. I am also proud to be a role model for the younger generation."
This past spring, Kernea was the TSSAA District 6-3A offensive player of the year for the second season in a row, earning the honor in a loaded league that included East Hamilton and Soddy-Daisy, which both advanced to the Spring Fling state tournament.
Kernea batted .590 with 15 extra-base hits, including four home runs, and she had five games in which she had three hits and as many RBIs. Her success standing up at the plate complemented her skills behind it, where she had a .994 fielding percentage and threw out 13 runners, but her athletic ability also allows her to play either middle infield position or third base.
She excels in her schoolwork, too, carrying a 3.9 GPA and having scored a 28 on the ACT.
"If you trust the process and do the work, great things will happen," Kernea said. "I enjoy the early-morning workouts and late-night hitting sessions as well as everything that goes into my success. It is so rewarding to see hard work pay off."
Kernea's high softball IQ, already a major asset for the Lady Wildcats, could make a big difference for the Mocs in the future.
"Being a catcher, I study pitching mechanics and spins to where I am able to read pitchers and recognize them at the plate as a hitter, too," Kernea said. "While I am not playing, I enjoy going out and watching the game and always learning more. I am so grateful for the opportunities this sport has opened for me."
Contact Patrick MacCoon at firstname.lastname@example.org.