A few years ago, a young up-and-coming softball pitcher by the name of Magen Rich idolized former Cherokee County High School standout Tori Davis. She wanted to be every bit the player Davis was.
There's no doubting Davis left her mark in Lady Warrior softball history, but now Rich has made hers at Sand Rock.
The senior right hander went 21-21 in the circle this season with 211 strikeouts and a 3.71 ERA. She also batted .383 with nine home runs, nine doubles, a triple, eight walks, nine runs scored 44 RBIs for the Lady Wildcats, who won the county tournament for the first time in head coach Josh Bates' softball coaching career.
All of those numbers are a nice sendoff for Rich to Miles College, but there's another honor she's earned to cap her high school softball career: being chosen by the county softball coaches as their Most Valuable Player.
"That's very special," Rich said. "When I look back on all of my accomplishments, I'll remember my senior year as being one of my better years. We accomplished a lot of things nobody thought we would. We lost so many seniors from last year and everyone expected us to come out and be nothing. We had a lot of losses, but overall I think we did pretty good as young as our girls are. A lot of the girls just stepped up when we needed them to."
Rich also did her part by being the leader those younger girls needed - not just this season, but throughout her career.
"When she came here in the ninth grade (from Centre) toward the end of the season, she became a very integral part of our team," Bates said. "She stepped in and filled the role for us in the circle, and she also brought a very good bat with her. It was that way throughout the next three years."
One of those games Rich stepped up was this year's county championship game against Spring Garden. They outlasted the Lady Panthers 6-5 in the if-necessary game after the Lady Wildcats had lost by the same score to Spring Garden in the previous game.
Rich delivered a crucial two-run single in the fourth that gave Sand Rock the lead in the if-necessary game. She also went on to earn the win in the circle.
But as big as her bat and her pitching was that night, Rich made sure the Lady Wildcats were all on the same page between games.
"I told them to look at it as a challenge," Rich said. "We were both exhausted. It's just who wants it more, and who fights for it is who's going to win. I think the whole time we never gave up, and that's why we won."
Rich cashing in during the clutch situations is something Bates has come to expect throughout the past few seasons.
"A lot of times she would step up in a tight ball game and deliver that big hit," Bates said. "The two (games) I remember the most was when we beat Lexington for the first time her ninth grade year. She had a home run in that one - a solo shot - to put us up 6-5 and we ended up winning. Her 10th grade year, we were playing Madison Academy, and she hit a home run in the bottom of the seventh to tie that game. Those two stick in my mind as giving us a shot to win."
And then there's Rich's performance in the circle.
"She's the first kid I've had to have over 200 strikeouts or more in a season," Bates said. "She did a good job for us in the circle, and she's set the bar high. She's left a good legacy for our program, and the good part is she's going to continue to play."
Joining Rich from Sand Rock on the All-Cherokee County Softball Team is sophomore outfielder Brylie St. Clair, junior second baseman Paige Norris, seventh grade shortstop Haley Lisenbee and senior third baseman Cara Parker.
St. Clair batted .599 with eight doubles, three triples, a home run, 41 stolen bases, 51 runs scored and 20 RBIs. Norris batted .591 with a pair of doubles, 26 stolen bases, 47 runs scored and 21 RBIs. Lisenbee batted .414 with three doubles, two triples, 12 walks, 33 runs and 44 RBIs. Parker posted a .264 batting average with five doubles, a triple, a home run, 12 walks, 16 runs scored and 17 RBIs.
Representing Spring Garden (29-16) is junior pitcher Kerstin Bryant, sophomore shortstop Payton McGinnis, junior third baseman Payton Traffanstedt and sophomore outfielder AJ Broome.
Bryant went 24-15 with 90 strikeouts and a 4.03 ERA in 189 2/3 innings in the circle this season. She also batted .459 with 19 doubles, four triples, four home runs, 41 runs scored and 60 RBIs.
McGinnis led the Lady Panthers with a .489 batting average with eight home runs, four triples, 20 doubles, 16 stolen bases, 14 walks, 14 hit by pitches, 45 runs scored and 65 RBIs.
Traffanstedt tallied a .409 batting average with 12 doubles, a triple, seven home runs, 19 walks, 45 runs scored and 40 RBIs.
Broome finished the season with a .420 batting average. She had seven doubles, a triple, 18 walks, 10 stolen bases, 39 runs scored and 14 RBIs.
The Cherokee County Lady Warriors (7-18-1) had three selections in outfielder junior Kendal Perry, junior catcher Jensen Alexander and junior third baseman Emily Williams. Final stats on Perry, Alexander and Williams were not available.
The Cedar Bluff Lady Tigers (18-24) and Gaylesville Lady Trojans (11-25) had two representatives each on the All-Cherokee County Softball Team.
Representing Cedar Bluff is senior third baseman Kiana Dobbins and senior shortstop Mikenzie Gossett. Dobbins batted .427 with 12 doubles, three triples, a home run, 19 stolen bases, 36 runs scored and 30 RBIs. Gossett batted .380 with four doubles, four triples, two home runs, 15 walks, 11 stolen bases, 34 runs scored and 28 RBIs.
Sophomore shortstop Madelyn Mitchell and eighth grade pitcher Malaya Shireman were chosen from Gaylesville. Mitchell batted .343 with 11 doubles, a triple, two home runs, 27 stolen bases, 13 walks, 20 runs scored and 27 RBIs. Shireman batted .319 with 10 doubles, four triples, 11 walks, 12 runs scored and 21 RBIs.