Riley Kokinda and Zoe Wright sign with Chattanooga

Heritage seniors Riley Kokinda (left) and Zoe Wright are signed and ready to make an impact on the Chattanooga softball team next year as freshmen.

Two players who played big roles on the Heritage High School softball team's journey from state contender to state champion will both be suiting up for the Chattanooga Mocs next season.

Outfielder Riley Kokinda and shortstop Zoe Wright recently signed their letters of intent with the Blue-and-Gold after both gave verbal commitments to the Mocs back on Sept. 1 of last year.

"Today is kind of overwhelming, but everything fell just like it was supposed to," Kokinda said of Signing Day. "We worked so hard to get here and we're finally here, so it's exciting and just the best feeling ever.

"Chattanooga has always been at the top of my list and their coaches helped make that happen. Just the program and how they go out and play hard and how everything is just about that team is just awesome."

Wright called it "a great honor" to get to sign on to play at the next level.

"Being a softball player in college has been a dream of mine for so long," she began. "Now the day has finally come where I get to sign and next year I get to move in, so it's just all getting here really fast. But I'm so grateful for the opportunity that my coaches, my parents and my friends have given me.

"UTC is close to home and it's just convenient for me and my family, so they can come watch me and not have to travel so much. I fell in love with the campus and the coaching staff and it just all came together perfectly."

The duo was part of a senior class that finished with three Class AAAA state championships and one third-place finish.

"For both of them, it's just a great way to go out of high school with all those accomplishments," said Heritage head coach Megan Crawford. "They both put up some unreal numbers this year and all throughout their high school careers. They've accomplished a lot in four years here and I'm looking forward to what comes next for both of them. I can't wait to go watch them play."

Kokinda was second team All-Region as a freshman and was the only freshman to earn All-State status in Class AAAA that season, picking up a second team nod. She was a first team All-Region pick as a sophomore and first team All-Region and All-State as a junior before earning another first team All-Region award as a senior. This year's All-State teams have yet to be announced.

In four years as the starting centerfielder with the Generals, she had a career .427 average with 31 doubles, 10 triples and one memorable homerun, a walk-off, inside-the-park grand slam against Cedartown this past season. She also finished with 99 career RBIs, 62 stolen bases and 148 runs scored.

"I'm going to be able to offer them a good outfielder and somebody who's going to bring the intensity every game," Kokinda stated. "If I'm playing, I'm going to go out and do my best. I can slap, bunt and hit and I'm just going to bring every part of my game."

Meanwhile, Wright was a mainstay at shortstop from the first day she was in uniform.

She earned second team All-Region honors as a freshman and followed up with first team All-Region and first team All-State selections as a sophomore. She received a first team All-Region nod as a junior and made the All-State second team that year. She has already earned first team All-Region honors this past season.

Wright finished her career at Heritage with a .383 batting average, 21 doubles, four triples, 53 RBIs, 57 stolen bases and 131 runs scored.

"I think (Chattanooga) will be a good fit for me," she added. "They have some good infielders (already), but I think I can compete and maybe earn a spot."

Crawford added that each player has what it takes to be successful at the college level.

"Zoe has grown a lot from her freshman year to her senior year, and even throughout her senior year, as a leader," she began. "For instance, if our freshman and sophomore pitchers were struggling in the circle, it wasn't the coach that went out to calm them down. It was Zoe calling time-out and going over to them and saying 'you got this'.

"She just has a very mature understanding of the game. She knows it inside and out.

"Riley is a workhorse. She constantly wants to take extra reps and get better. It doesn't matter if it's in the outfield or if it's hitting. She knows exactly what she needs to do to get better and that just shows how she's matured in the game.

"She's just an all-around player and I know she'll take that with her to UTC."

Kokinda plans to enter the nursing program at Chattanooga, while Wright is currently undecided on a major.

Scott Herpst is sports editor for the Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga., and Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga.

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