By TREY WILLIAMS
It was shaping up to be a memorable swan song, but Daniel Boone’s senior softball players had to end their careers on a sour note.
The coronavirus pandemic wiped out spring sports, cutting short the careers of Jaycie Jenkins, Nickolette Ferguson and Makenna Dance. The Trailblazers’ other senior, Greyson Stevens, was set to miss her final season due to a knee injury sustained in basketball.
The ending was heartbreaking under any circumstances, but especially so for the ‘Blazers, who went 44-7 in 2019. They took eventual state champion Jefferson County to the wire and returned an impressive portion of the personnel.
“Those seniors won two out of three district championships,” coach Jeremy Jenkins said. “They won two outright conference championships and tied for another one. We were expecting a lot of good things this year.
“You’ve just gotta deal with it and go on. We wish those three ladies the best of luck.”
Jenkins, a shortstop, was one of the best three-sport athletes in Northeast Tennessee history. She will play basketball at Milligan University, and considered playing volleyball as well for the Buffaloes.
“There’s not a better all-around athlete to play everything that she did and be as talented as she was in everything,” Jenkins said. “She’d be one of the best to ever come out of this area, if not the one. It’s a testament to her work ethic and how she goes about all of the things that she does. She’s very detailed and very meticulous. She wants to do everything right and do it the very best she can do, and she works at it continuously.
“This will follow her to Milligan. I expect her to be one of the top basketball players in their conference.”
Jenkins made a game-winner against Science Hill for a regional basketball title as a sophomore in 2018 and was the Big Seven Conference player of the year in volleyball last season. She was the softball district tournament MVP in 2019 after going 7-for-11 with four home runs and 15 RBIs, including a grand slam against Science Hill in the championship.
“I thought she really came into her own toward the end of the year last year, especially in the district tournament,” Jenkins said. “She hit over .600 in that span. She got hot at the right time.
“She had the stick-back when she was a sophomore to beat Science Hill and let us host (a sectional). And then in the semifinals of the region this year she had 40-some points against Jeff County and carries them to the substate (sectional). She’s just a really focused young lady in everything she does.”
After sharing the pitching load with Megan Ackerman in previous seasons, Ferguson was set to be the ace this year. She went 19-3 with a 1.67 ERA as a junior and will continue her career at Carson-Newman.
“Nickolette was really looking forward to the season,” Jenkins said. “She’d been pitching ever since she was a freshman for us, was pitcher of the year last year. Her and Megan went every other game. We really expected a lot out of her.”
Ferguson’s older sister, McKenzie, pitched on Boone’s state runner-up team in 2012.
“I think she was 11 wins away from beating her sister at Boone,” Jenkins said, “and she was really wanting that. We wish her the best of luck at Carson-Newman.”
Dance, a second baseman, will play in college at Covenant.
“McKenna’s one of those girls that always seemed to come up in a pressure situation, whatever it may be,” Jenkins said. “She’d lay down a bunt or make a play in the hole or something like that. She did a lot of good things for us and got the job done in pressured times.
“We won that big Gibbs Invitational last year and she was one of our top two hitters that weekend and really carried us hitting the ball that weekend. She’d get hot and stay hot for a while, and she was a really good glove for us in the field.”
Dance’s sister, Macy, played at Boone with Jenkins’ sister, Jaclyn.
“This is the first year in eight years, I guess,” Jenkins said, “that we didn’t have a Dance or a Jenkins try out for next year’s team.”
Stevens was an excellent first baseman during her career.
“Greyson was a three-year starter and was just such a good defensive player,” Jenkins said. “She’s a tall young lady, could really scoop it well and got some big-time hits for us. She was probably our best bunter as well.”
Jenkins isn’t one to dwell on what he can’t control, but it’s hard not to still occasionally wonder what might have been for his ‘Blazers in 2020.
“We’re gonna miss those girls,” he said. “They’ve got a lot of wins under their belts and a lot of things that they have done. Daniel Boone and Daniel Boone softball are a better program and a better school with those three coming through there.”