Lady Jacket signs to play for Camels
Every time a high school student gets to sign the official paperwork to accept a college scholarship, it's a special event.
Chandler Patterson's signing day, as she'll play softball at Campbell University starting in 2014-15, was especially meaningful because of how many people she shared the ceremony with at Lee County High School Friday afternoon.
The Lady Yellow Jackets' three-time all-state shortstop and slugger, with her senior spring still to go, earned a part-athletic, part-academic scholarship which added up to a full scholarship to Campbell. Family, teammates, teachers and coaches were on hand to congratulate her.
Patterson's current and former coaches were from Lee County, as well as club and recreation teams. Jeff McPhail, head coach of Carolina Wildcats, an 18U travel club Patterson's been with since she was an eighth-grader, said she's been great for the Wildcats on and off the field.
"She's probably the best player who's been in my organization," he said.
Patterson's hit 58 home runs in her Wildcat career. As a Lady Jacket, Patterson has been an all-state, All-Tri-Nine, all-district and team MVP all three of her varsity seasons.
In addition to being a standout basketball and volleyball player as well, Patterson is a member of the National Honor Society and the National Technical Honor Society. She's been on multiple all-academic conference teams. She earned a Presidential Academic Scholarship from Campbell.
"From Lee County High School and the athletic department, we're all very proud of you," said Lee County athletic director Reggie Peace.
"Chandler has set a fine example for the rest of the student-athletes here," he said.
"She's a role model, she sure is," McPhail said. "From the time she came to the team, she's been a big asset to the team and the organization."
The travel softball schedule is a full-time commitment to itself, as McPhail said the Wildcats play "close to 100 games" a year. Colorado, New England and Florida are some of the Wildcats' tournament destinations during the last few years.
"Chandler and her parents have definitely sacrificed a lot of weekends to play softball," McPhail said.
Mike Wilson, who's coached Patterson on the Weekend Warriors club team for nearly four years, remembers Patterson hitting a home run in her first at-bat on his team. He also remembers the next at-bat.
Patterson struck out. Instead of sulking about it, she was the same outstanding teammate.
"She sprinted back to the dugout, got up to the fence and right back to cheering on and helping her team," Wilson said.
"Everyone here today has been with her since she was young," said Chandler's father Reggie. "All of you have made a big impact in her life, and not just in sports, and we can never thank you enough."
The Lady Jackets are fortunate to have Patterson for one more softball season.
"We're really excited about her senior spring and what the younger girls can learn from a player who has high expectations, and learn from her what it takes to be successful," said Yellow Jacket head coach Miles McCaskill.
Patterson had other college offers, but playing close to family and friends is important to her, McCaskill said. Plus, the Fighting Camels went 39-21 overall last season, with an 18-6 Big South mark and reaching the final of the Big South Tournament.
"Campbell is getting a fine student-athlete, but an even better person," said McCaskill. "Today represents the beginning of a new stage for Chandler and for what the good Lord has in store for her."