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Ferguson chosen as Sweet 19 player of the year

Jeff Birchfield • May 23, 2020 at 10:00 AM

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

However, it is a usual method where our staff arrived to pick Ferguson. Much like college sports with Associated Press preseason All-American teams or preseason all-conference lists, the team was based on past accomplishments and promised potential.

Ferguson becomes the second straight Daniel Boone pitcher to receive the award, following Megan Ackerman in 2019. It is the third time that Ferguson has been named to the team. Lady ’Blazers coach Jeremy Jenkins pointed out that Ferguson has been a leader on the field and in the classroom with her 4.2 GPA ranking 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.”

Her all-around play was evident in Daniel Boone’s 2020 season-opening win over Dobyns-Bennett. As the starting pitcher for the Lady ’Blazers, Ferguson had six strikeouts, gave up one hit and allowed just two base runners 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 her junior season, when the Lady ’Blazers won a fourth straight Big Seven Conference championship and the District 1-AAA title. They won 44 games 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 as Ferguson had two hits and drove in a run.

“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, Ferguson tied for second in Northeast Tennessee in strikeouts (145) and was third in ERA (1.56) during the regular season. She finished 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).

She pitched a complete game and threw eight strikeouts in Boone’s 9-2 victory over Science Hill in the District 1-AAA championship game.

Those performances followed up a sophomore season when she hit .386 with 32 RBIs and went 14-6 as a pitcher. She’s been performing at a high level since her freshman year when she threw a no-hitter against Dobyns-Bennett.

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

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