FCHS grads see Chipola softball action
They were both standouts for the Lady Seahawk softball team, they’re roomies at Chipola College and they each had a pretty good college softball debut this past year.
The bad news is their regular spring season was canceled in the middle of March.
The good news is that both Melanie Collins and Alexus Johnson, each 2019 Franklin County High School grads, have four years of eligibility left.
“In light of the progressive evolvement of the COVID-19 situation, the National Junior College Athletic Association has decided to end all competition for the remainder of the academic year,” wrote Dr. Christopher Parker, NJCAA president and CEO, in a March 16 announcement.
“As an association, the NJCAA exhausted all possible avenues to potentially postpone competition for both upcoming basketball championships and spring sport competition. We believe following the recommendations of the CDC is in the best interest of our member colleges and our student-athletes.”
The decision meant the Indians’ regular spring season, which began Jan. 31, ended March 11, including all practices, regular season, postseason, and national championship play.
And post-season, and even national championship, play was a real possibility for the Indians, who won the national crown last season, their third since 2007.
“The team was very good, ranked fourth in the county when the season ended,” said Scott Collins, their high school coach. “They had only lost four games. They were pretty darn good, a lot of talent on the field.”
Melanie Collins played as back-up shortstop, behind team leader Haley Standridge, from Chickamauga, Georgia, who was batting a whopping .470 in 29 games. Plus Collins played a little second base.
Johnson, who bats left and throws right, was the corner fielder, at third base and first, and swatted two home runs in 22 game appearances.
In 52 plate appearances, she batted .333, banging out 14 hits, including two doubles, and driving in nine runs. Johnson walked 10 times, struck out 11 times, and stole seven bases.
“I thought she did really well,” said her former coach. “She was swinging the bat well and played good defense.”
In the case of Melanie Collins, who also bats left and throws right, she appeared in 17 games.
In 26 at-bats, in 28 plate appearances, she had a .308 average, banging out eight hits, including four doubles, and hammering a homer. Collins scored seven runs and drove home four. She stole three bases, walked twice and struck out seven times.
“I thought she played well,” said her father, and former coach. “She played hard and she learned a lot. It was a perfect year for her to prepare for what’s coming up.”
Both young women faced a grueling year on the diamond.
“It was a lot tougher up there,” said Scott Collins. “They run one of the toughest programs in the country, and they knew that coming in.
“Both dramatically improved as players,” he said. “Both are a lot better on defense than they were when they were here.
“They played every single day,” he said. “Except for Sundays they were out there practicing. I can’t tell you the thousands of ground balls they fielded, it was an enormous amount.
“They’re a lot more mature and seasoned than they were when they were here,” said Scott Collins.
Both business majors, each has already earned their associate’s degree, and are well on their way towards a bachelor’s degree.
As it stands now, they’ll be back on the field in August, with four years left to play college ball.
Whether they decide in the year or two ahead to head towards a four-year college to complete their undergraduate works and play more college ball, is always a possibility.
“Everything’s still up in the air right now,” said Scott Collins.