Five Clarksville High School athletes – including four softball players – officially committed to playing college sports in front of a packed crowd on Friday in the school cafeteria.
Golfer McKinley Cunningham, who was invited to sign alongside her friends on the softball team, signed to continue her golfing career with Ole Miss.
“When I first started looking at playing collegiate golf, I wanted to go out of state, and I wanted to go bigger, and I wanted to go to the biggest place that I could possibly go,” Cunningham said. “I wanted to go SEC, that’s what my heart was set on ever since middle school when I started playing competitive golf. I visited Kentucky first then Mississippi State then Ole Miss and I loved them all. I had offers from them, and Ole Miss is just where my heart is. I loved it, and that was my dream school for a long time.”
Cunningham is the No. 2 recruit in Tennessee and a two-time qualifier for the Tennessee Junior Cup.
Center fielder Madison Berner committed to stay in Clarksville and play for Austin Peay State University.
“It was very difficult, because there was a lot of stress in it,” Berner said. “I couldn’t get a lot of colleges to look at me like I wanted to. I had to trust the process and just be patient, and Austin Peay felt like home right when I got there, and I knew it was the one.”
Berner, a former all-district player of the year, hit .450 with seven home runs, five doubles, five triples and a 1.305 on-base plus slugging in 31 games as a junior.
Pitcher Madisen Blackwell, another former player of the year, committed to Union University.
“Going up to Union, it’s like it was meant to be. It was definitely a God thing,” Blackwell said. “I knew that’s where I belonged. I knew right as I stepped on campus, it was home.
“It’s definitely really humbling the rewards I received sophomore year. Junior year, I struggled a little bit. That was humbling. Going into Union, I’m going to give it all I’ve got, not focus on the awards, do the best for my team and put it in God’s hands.”
Blackwell shined during her sophomore year, pitching to a 16-4 record with a 1.48 earned-run average and 98 strikeouts. She also hit .444 with five home runs and 39 runs batted in. Despite injuries as a junior, she hit .365 with three home runs and 19 RBIs while pitching 12 innings with zero earned runs.
Infielder-outfielder Arie Milam committed to Dyersburg State Community College.
“I’m excited to go to Dyersburg. I’m a very indecisive person, and this is the one decision that I’ve been pretty confident about,” Milam said. “I’ve never been a confident player, and I don’t know if I’d even label myself now as a confident player. But Dyersburg is the first school that looked into me. I went there for a workout, and they offered me there, and I was just kind of like, this is a school that believes in me, and I’m going to give them everything I’ve got and get the job done for them.”
Milam plans on playing there for two years before transferring to Middle Tennessee State University.
After she was an outfielder her freshman and sophomore seasons, Milam transitioned to second base as a junior. She hit .366 with a .492 on-base percentage, along with 13 stolen bases.
Pitcher Madison Haught committed to Calhoun College.
“[Recruiting] went by pretty easy,” Haught said. “I had a great recruiter. I went down to tour the school with my mom, and I knew it was a good fit once I met the coach. That’s how I knew it was for me.
“[My parents] always pushed me to better myself and expand what I should do. Always find the right fit for what I need to do.”
Haught shined on the mound as a junior. She went 14-0 with an 0.90 earned-run average and 90 strikeouts with 19 walks.
It was a special day for Clarksville coach Brian Rush, who was given the honor of watching four of his longtime players sign on with their new schools – even if he does have another full season with them.
“They grow up with you,” Rush said. “You watch them grow, and I think that’s really special. They come in as freshmen, and all four were able to make an impact immediately in our program. You just watch them grow and mature as they get older. So the conversations you’re able to have about strategy and the mental side of softball changes over the years. You watch them come in as followers and emerge as leaders.”