Three Tipton County players made major contributions to the Southwest Tennessee Community College softball team this past season. Alex Turner, Tara Comer and Alex Stanford, all of whom graduated from Munford High School in 2013, were regulars for the Lady Saluqis in 2014.
Turner led the team in every offensive category and was named first team All-Tennessee Community College Athletic Conference. Comer pitched, played several positions and hit over .300, while Stanford played outfield and was a major offensive contributor. Keith Gentry has been the Lady Saluqi coach for 11 years and can often be seen scouting players at Munford and Brighton high school games. He has coached 16 different players from Tipton County at Southwest.
“They start playing when they're five years hold here,” Gentry said. “By the time they get to high school, they have played a lot of games against good competition, and they have had good coaching.”
Turner had one of the best seasons ever for a Lady Saluqi. She led the team in 10 offensive categories: batting average (.401), runs (49), hits (73), doubles (18), home runs (15), total bases (138), RBIs (36), slugging percentage (.758), walks (27) and on-base percentage (.481).
Her hit and total base stats were one short of the team record. Her 15 home runs were two short of the team record, which was set by Brighton High School graduated Amber Hayes in 2009. Despite her power, Gentry decided Turner would serve the team best as a leadoff hitter.
“The home runs just came,” said Gentry, who noted that Turner only hit four as a senior at Munford. “I can't say I was expecting 15, but I knew she had power.”
Turner returns next year and Gentry believes four-year schools will be lining up to secure her services in 2016. “The numbers she put up this year, no player we've had has approached that,” Gentry said. “She was our best player for sure. She did a great job in centerfield too. I can't say enough about her. I wish we had a whole team like her. She's as humble as she can be. She just goes about her business out there … She'll get offers. If four-year schools don't look at here, they're missing out. She's a good player and a good person.”
Comer was recruited primarily as a pitcher out of high school. While she did put up some respectable numbers in the circle (4.49 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 78 innings), she ended up being most valuable as a hitter and infielder. Because of injuries and other reasons, Comer ended up playing a lot of third base and second base, positions she never played at Munford. She performed well on the infield while hitting .307 with three homers, four doubles and 31 RBIs.
“Tara was a valuable member of the team,” Gentry said.
“She ended up being more of a utility player than either one of us thought.”
Two of Southwest's pitchers were sophomores this year, so Comer figures to see more time pitching in 2015.
“She had a pretty solid year,” Gentry said. “I'll be counting on her even more next year as far as pitching goes.”
Stanford, who was primarily a pitcher and first baseman during her career at Munford, ended up playing outfield at Southwest. She hit .261 with five doubles, one homer and 21 RBIs. Stanford struck out just 10 times in 153 at-bats, the fewest on the team. In her first at-bat of the season she got a pinch hit and Gentry quickly realized he had a reliable bat he could put into the lineup.
“She ended up doing a really good job in right,” Gentry said. “I didn't have to worry about right field anymore. She made the routine plays, which is what we needed. She ended up being one of our better hitters.”
Stanford has decided not to play softball next year and concentrate on her education, but she was another in a long line of Tipton County high school graduates who excelled at Southwest. Gentry didn't sign any Tipton County players in the 2014 class, but he's got his eye on several in the class of 2015.
“Players from here,” Gentry said, “just know how to play the game.”