By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
One Feather Staff
ANDREWS – With a dominating performance at Andrews, the Cherokee Middle School Lady Braves finished their 2021 season undefeated and won the Smoky Mountain Conference championship. The Lady Braves defeated the Lady Wildcats 20-0 in their final game of the season on the afternoon of Friday, April 9. Cherokee school officials related that this is the first time in school history that a middle school softball team has finished the season undefeated.
“My heart is overjoyed and filled with pride,” Terri Hogner, Middle School Lady Braves softball head coach, said following their win. “These ladies have dedicated hours on top of hours of time to build their knowledge and methods of softball.”
The Lady Braves finished the season a perfect 7-0 with the following wins:
* March 9: Cherokee 19 Rosman 9
* March 12: Cherokee 12 Robbinsville 9
* March 16: Cherokee 15 Andrews 0
* March 19: Cherokee 5 Swain County 1
* March 23: Cherokee 19 Rosman 9
* April 2: Cherokee 21 Robbinsville 7
* April 9: Cherokee 20 Andrews 0
“Their camaraderie has been their biggest accomplishment – being one another’s biggest fan and having one another’s back,” added Coach Hogner. “I’m hoping the interest of youth programs continues to grow and more young girls find joy in being involved with the sport.”
Through six games, some of the Lady Braves stat leaders included:
* Aaliyah Reed hit .600 with 9 hits including 2 singles, 6 doubles, and a triple
* Watiyeli Taylor hit .462 with 6 hits including 2 singles, 3 doubles, and a triple
* Julia Layo hit .400 with 8 hits including 3 singles, 3 doubles, and 2 triples
* Paytyn Barker pitched 26 innings with a 6.231 ERA and 15 strikeouts
Julia Layno, Lady Braves catcher and shortstop, commented on the season. “When we first started, we played a little sloppy. But, when we started playing more, we came together more as a team. We have our ups and downs. Sometimes, we have a bad inning, but the girls are really nice and we’ve been playing together since we were younger and we have a really good chemistry.”
Watiyeli Taylor, Lady Braves outfielder and pitcher, said, “It’s been fun getting closer as a team.”
She noted that she most enjoys pitching and when asked what her favorite part about that position is, Taylor said, “Striking someone out.”
Ella Sokol, Lady Braves right fielder, commented, “I’m proud of all of us. We worked really well together all season, and everybody’s just good and supportive of each other.”
Carrah Swimmer, Lady Braves volunteer assistant coach, said the season has been humbling. She noted that many of the girls grew up playing with each other on the Mavericks travel softball team and brought skills with them that herself and Coach Hogner were able to add to and hone.
“I feel our girls walk in mentally prepared for every situation,” Swimmer said. “Coach Hogner does a great job of simulating situations.”
Swimmer also praised the parents of the players for their dedication and support of the season.