LUCASVILLE — Signing to play with a teammate to play at the same school?
That’s one thing.
But signing to play with a teammate, at the same school, and join another teammate who already signed to that same school earlier in the school year? That’s certainly rare.
Valley High School senior softball standouts Margaret Caldwell and Faith Brown did just that on Thursday afternoon when Caldwell and Brown joined their fellow teammate in Marissa Markins by signing with the Shawnee State University softball program in a joint signing ceremony with family members and friends of the two players present at the school.
For both Caldwell and Brown, the ability to play the sport that they love — and to do so within a close proximity to home — is an opportunity that both players aren’t taking for granted.
“It’s a great honor, honestly,” Caldwell said. “I can’t wait until my journey begins. It means a lot to me.”
“It’s a huge honor just to be able to continue to play for another four years,” Brown said. “It means the world to me to be able to play with the girls that I grew up with. It’s an incredible feeling to know that those are going to be my teammates. That’s awesome to me.”
However, it’s an opportunity that veteran head coach Montie Spriggs knows is a well-deserved one that both players can handle.
“You watch them from the time that they were freshmen, and you see where they are now, and it shows you that they’ve really improved,” Spriggs said. “They’ve just become pretty good softball players, and they’ve grown up a lot. I’m really proud of them.”
Both players, who are All-SOC caliber talents, have continued to prove nothing but the same in 2018. Caldwell, who serves as Valley’s leadoff hitter, holds a batting average of .367, while Brown, who bats in the cleanup spot, holds a .451 average. The latter’s mark is especially impressive considering that Brown, who. like Caldwell, is a three-year starter and has started as the team’s primary pitcher over each of the last three years, has pitched in not only every game and every inning over the last two seasons, but has thrown every pitch for the unit over the last two years, as well.
“With Margaret, what you see is what you get,” Spriggs said. “She can be very coachable at times, and at times, she can be very uncoachable at times, because she beats herself up when she does something wrong. However, she’s really worked at that and gotten better at that. Nothing bothers Faith. She used to get too high or too low, but she’s matured to the point where nothing phases her. Both of them will do really well at Shawnee State. They’ve matured and really worked at their games.”
Both of them, however, weren’t sure that playing collegiate softball would even be much of an option, especially Caldwell, who said that her main goal was simply trying to work to get better at the game of softball itself.
“I tried to shoot for (an opportunity to play college softball), but I didn’t think that I would be where I’m at today,” Caldwell said. “My Dad really worked with me on the things that I needed to work on, so he helped me and Montie helped me, and now, I’m actually at this point, where I wanted to be.”
“That’s always been the goal,” Brown said. “As a kid, you’re thinking, ‘Oh, I’m going to play professional softball someday!’ When I got to my freshman year, though, I thought, ‘Ah, it’s going to be over in four years.’ It didn’t really start hitting me until the end of my sophomore year that I had a chance to play in college. They came and talked to me, and said, ‘Hey, we expect great things from you,’ so it was always in the back of my mind. But to actually have a chance to play at the next level, and know that my hard work is paying off, is a great feeling.”
However, according to both players, the unwavering support that their families, friends, and teammates provided always helped the duo push through. Brown even credited the relentlessness of her own teammates as a reason for her latest softball opportunity.
“We all had that same goal, so we pushed each other the whole way through,” Brown said. “It’s great to know that Marissa and Margaret will still be there. It’s been one of the greatest support systems that you could ask for. They’ve pushed me, 100 percent, all the way through. It’s meant a lot to me to know that we’d be losing in a game, and they’re still there pushing me and vice versa.”
“It’s very special,” Caldwell said. “I love them so much. I couldn’t have done this without Faith’s Dad (Tim Brown), Montie (Spriggs), my Dad (Wesley Caldwell), or my teammates. In high school ball, travel ball, or anything else in my life, they’ve always been there and they’ve helped me get to the point where I’m at now.”
However, it also certainly helps the performance of a player when that player’s school of choice is behind the player in question.
And that’s something that both players say they haven’t had to worry about much, if at all.
“I’ll miss everyone here,” Caldwell said. “I’ll miss all of the teachers that have helped me in the things that I needed help with. Everyone has been here for me, and they’ve all supported me. I can’t thank them enough for that.”
“This school has given me a lot,” Brown said. “The last four years has been home, so I wear the Valley uniform with pride. It really is a feeling of honor to put that uniform on and get to play, because you know that the school has your back, and it is a sense of pride.”
At Shawnee State, both student-athletes will be taking on challenging disciplines in addition to their softball load. Brown is going to major in pre-medicine, where she will look to become an anestheiologist, while Caldwell is leaning toward going into occupational therapy.
However, both players know that the support for their careers — both on and off of the softball field — will always be there, no matter what happens.
“It’s a big deal to know that I get to go on, and that all of these people are here for me,” Brown said. “It’s just a big deal, and it’s so surreal. They’re all so proud, and they’re all saying, ‘Congratulations.’ You don’t think anybody’s paying attention to the little things, so to see the support that we have all had is a great thing.”
“I’m glad for Margaret and Faith,” Spriggs said. “There’s been a lot of talent from the local schools and communities around here over the years, and there’s a lot of talent coming through the school systems now. I’m really glad to see (Steve Whittaker, Shawnee State head coach) hitting this area hard. He’s doing a really nice job there.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT