Longhorn duo makes college plans

Published 10:58 pm Friday, February 27, 2009

A pair of Lady Longhorns cemented their collegiate plans Friday as Marengo Academy paused normal operations to conduct two scholarship signing ceremonies. Amber Walker inked with Faulkner State Community College of Bay Minette while Michelle Pritchett committed to suit up for Southern Union of Auburn.

“They’re outstanding,” MA head softball coach Todd Mathis said of the senior duo. “We’ve had these kids since Little League ball. It’s fun to see how much they’ve grown, how much better they’ve gotten.”

Walker’s signature made official a decision she reached months earlier.

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“I was pretty nervous to begin with,” Walker said of her decision. “But it was pretty good because I already knew half the team. I know one other girl that’s going from Southern (Academy), Amber Miller.”

Faulkner State head coach Paul Jones heralded Walker’s character and work ethic as reasons for extending the offer before turning his attention to her on-field abilities.

“I like that she’s very capable of playing two or three positions,” Jones said. “She’s very capable of playing first or catch. That’s what you look at as a coach is her versatility.”

Jones said he anticipates Walker to contribute to the Sun Chiefs immediately.

“I think that she could hit in the middle of our lineup,” Jones said of the Marengo power hitter. “That’s where we’re kind of lacking right now is some punch in our lineup.”

“Two years ago she was a dead pull hitter,” Mathis said of Walker. “But as she gets older, she’s developing a disciplined bat.”

The MA coach said he has little doubt Walker will succeed at the next level.

“Whatever she does, she does wide open,” Mathis said.

The move also reunites Walker with her long-time friend and battery mate, Ashely Stokes, who is enjoying her freshman year as a Sun Chief.

“They’ve been pitching and catching together since they were nine,” Walker’s mother, Michelle, said. “They were always on the same summer league teams. It’s very special for us that they are going to play together again.”

“I’m excited about it,” Stokes added. “It’s different not playing with her this year.”

While Walker and Stokes will be reunited in Bay Minette, Pritchett’s signing will make her an in-state rival of the tandem.

“I love the atmosphere of the school,” Pritchett said of Southern Union. “Everybody I met when I was there was very nice. I met the girls on the softball team. Everybody is different, but we all bonded really well. I know some of the girls that I’m going to be playing with, so that helps too.”

Southern Union head coach Brian Pittman said he expects to utilize Pritchett, who pitches and plays shortstop for the Lady Longhorns, in the starting rotation early.

“Michelle is going to come in and definitely be in our rotation right off the bat,” Pittman said. “She’s going to throw a lot of innings for us.”

“He’s getting one of the better pitchers,” Mathis said. “She’s going to be able to step in and help out immediately. She’s made me look good numerous times.”

For Pritchett, the option of playing at the college level was not as easy of a decision as it was for Walker.

“I’ve always been told I had potential, but I never really considered it until this year,” Pritchett said. “I know what I’m doing now. I’ve just got to work hard for it.”

While the decision to sign with SU puts her opposite long-time teammates Walker and Stokes, it will also united Pritchett with Lowndes Academy standouts Jordan Insinga and Ashley Williams, who singed with Southern Union Wednesday. That pair was instrumental in Lowndes Academy’s state title win over MA in 2008, the latest in a line of clashes that have ignited a rivalry between the two squads.

“I’m just going to do my best,” Pritchett said of getting to know her future teammates. “I’m working on beating them first and then we’ll be friends next year.”

Marengo Academy senior Abbey Huckabee is expected to join Pritchett at Southern Union. According to Mathis, she will sign with the school officially next week.