After pouring every ounce she could into GPS' softball program, Ansley Blevins has a tremendous amount to show for her dedication to the game.
The Bruisers slugger obliterated opposing pitchers in her senior season which included a school record 20 home runs in 83 at-bats to propel a Division II-AA runner-up finish this spring. Her 40 high school home runs are also a GPS record.
"I don't think Ansley had any home runs that were barely out of the park," said legendary GPS coach Susan Crownover, who retired at the end of the season. "She hit towering bombs as well as some lasers that were fence high and kept going. In all of her time at GPS she was the hardest working kid. She led from behind the plate and was willing to do whatever it took to be great for her team."
Blevins, who was one of six finalists for this year's Scrappy Moore Female Athlete of the Year and also earned Division II-AA state Player of the Year honors, enjoyed one last opportunity to play for Crownover as the star catcher was a part of a loaded field of softball talent at Tuesday's Tennessee vs. Georgia All Star game at Frost Stadium.
Former Sequatchie County star Addy Edgmon blasted a home run to deep right in Tennessee's 4-2 victory in game one, while Soddy-Daisy's Taylor Long and Walker Valley's Hailey Leslie combined for five shutout innings. Soddy-Daisy's Ryli Renfro also starred at the plate with an RBI double. Calhoun's Paris Kirby had a two-run double in the bottom of the seventh for Georgia.
Georgia evened the series by winning the nightcap 9-2. Calhoun's Kirby earned the Chip Liner Georgia player of the game by going 3-for-4 with three doubles and four RBIs. Sonoraville's Long earned the Stump Martin MVP with 15 strikeouts over 7 2/3 innings. Baylor's Cadashia Collins won the Clifford Kirk Tennessee Player of the game, hitting a two-run home run while scoring two runs and making several nice defensive plays.
Nearly an hour before the game, on a 94-degree afternoon, Blevins was one of the first in the batting cages to warm up. She also showed a great deal of emotion when Edgmon made a one-hop throw home to her, where she then put down a perfect tag to nab a runner trying to score all the way from first base on a single.
"Coach Crownover means a lot to me and is the best coach I have ever had," said Blevins, who will continue her career at Middle Tennessee State University. "She has really driven me to work hard and that's what I did all of my years there. To finish off by setting some school records and getting to play for coach one more time really does mean a lot to me."
As a show of respect to her power, Blevins was intentionally walked 25 times this past season.
"You have to make contact first. Home runs come off hard line drives," said Blevins, who hit four home runs in consecutive at-bats during one stretch. "That's my motto. Never go up to the plate wanting to hit home runs. You go up there wanting to hit line drives to help your team score runs."
Future UTC pitcher Taylor Long was sharp in Tuesday's All-Star game as she struck out six batters over 2 2/3 scoreless innings in game one of a doubleheader. A Sonoraville standout, Long had 408 strikeouts over 200 innings in which she posted a 0.48 ERA and 25-3 record to help the Phoenix finish state runner-up in GHSA Class AAA. She finished her high school career with 998 strikeouts.
"I have been going to camps here since I was little and I love Chattanooga," said Long, who features a rise ball, curve and screwball. "I hope to be an ace here one day. There are lots of good pitchers at this level, so I have to work really hard."