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Ferguson is Sweet 19 player of the year

Jeff Birchfield • May 23, 2020 at 12:00 PM

Unusual circumstances led to Daniel Boone senior pitcher Nickolette Ferguson being chosen the Times News/Johnson City Press Sweet 19 softball player of the year.

However, the usual method led to the choice of Ferguson. Much like in college sports with The Associated Press preseason All-America teams or preseason all-conference lists, the team was based on past accomplishments and promised potential.

Ferguson is the second straight Boone pitcher to receive the award, following Megan Ackerman in 2019. Ferguson has made the honorary team three times.

Lady Trailblazers coach Jeremy Jenkins said Ferguson has been a leader both on the field and in the classroom. Ferguson posted a 4.2 GPA and ranked No. 2 in her class.

“She was very talented on the field and in the classroom and she just made Daniel Boone better in all aspects,” Jenkins said. “She wants the ball in the big games and has the tenacity to go out there and compete at a high level.

“When it’s the seventh (inning) up one (run), she really came through in the big moments,” Jenkins added.

Ferguson’s all-around play was evident in Boone’s season-opening win over Dobyns-Bennett.

The starting pitcher for the Lady Trailblazers, Ferguson struck out six batters, gave up one hit and allowed just two baserunners in a shutout victory. She was also productive at the plate, going 2-for-3 with two RBIs.

She was a big part of Boone’s success during her junior season, when the Lady ’Blazers won a fourth straight Big 7 Conference championship and the District 1-AAA title. They piled up 44 wins before losing to eventual state champion Jefferson County in the Region 1-AAA semifinals.

Playing in the prestigious Gibbs Invitational, the Lady ’Blazers beat the host team in the championship game — winning 2-0 behind Ferguson’s two hits and a run driven in.

“You can say she’s a power hitter, but her on- base percentage is really, really good,” Jenkins said. “She has a great eye up there where she can battle and get in counts. She is aggressive, but she doesn’t chase many pitches at all. She hit anywhere from No. 3 to No. 5 and she drove in a lot of runs for us.”

Despite splitting time in the circle with Ackerman last year, Ferguson tied for second in Northeast Tennessee in strikeouts (145) and was third in ERA (1.56) during the regular season.

Ferguson also finished with a .410 batting average and ranked among the area leaders in other major categories, including home runs, runs batted in, wins and WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched).

Ferguson pitched a complete game and struck out eight in Boone’s 9-2 victory over Science Hill in the District 1-AAA championship game.

Those performances followed up a sophomore season in which she batted .386 with 32 RBIs and compiled a 14-6 record as a pitcher.

Ferguson has been performing at a high level since her freshman year when she threw a no-hitter against Dobyns-Bennett.

So while there was a different way of choosing the Sweet 19 player of the year, Ferguson clearly is a worthy choice.

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