By Shannon Fagan, WEIS Sports Director
Jadyn Foster was once in Emma Hill’s shoes.
Foster was thrust into a starting pitcher role on the varsity team at Sand Rock as a seventh grader. Five years later, she leaves as one of its most decorated and record-breaking softball players, capping her career with a 31-5 record with a save in 185 innings with 349 strikeouts and a 1.10 ERA.
Foster also proved equally lethal at the plate in 2023. She batted .463 with 17 home runs, 13 doubles, six triples, 21 walks, 21 stolen bases, 74 runs and 71 RBIs in leading the Lady Wildcats to a school-record 41-10 season and another East Softball Regional appearance.
Like Foster already has established at Sand Rock, Hill is hoping to make an historic mark herself at Cherokee County High School.
As a freshman this season, she went 12-6 with three saves in over 120 innings in the circle with 189 strikeouts and a 1.75 ERA. She batted .397 with nine doubles, three triples, a home run, 12 walks, 40 runs and 26 RBIs in leading the Lady Warriors (30-16) to their first Class 4A state tournament appearance since 2018.
Even head-to-head in the Cherokee County Tournament championship game back in mid-March, the veteran standout and the young sensation performed valiantly.
Foster went 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles, a run and two RBIs. She worked six innings in the circle and had seven strikeouts.
Hill worked the final five innings in the circle for the Lady Warriors, giving up just one hit with three walks and six strikeouts. She also had two hits and scored a run at the plate in helping the Lady Warriors earn a 9-2 victory to secure their second county softball title in three seasons.
When it came time for the Cherokee County softball coaches to choose their all-county team, they decided to split this year’s Most Valuable Player honor between Foster and Hill.
Something else the duo have in common is they’re both humble when it comes to earning such accolades.
“I’m proud and blessed to have my parents always supporting me, my teammates who are always there for me, and Coach (Josh) Bates and all the other coaches who are also always there for me. I’m just blessed to have the support system I do,” Foster said.
“This year our team really had a turnaround,” Hill said. “My defense has definitely supported me a ton. They always make the plays. I really have nothing to worry about when I’m pitching. It helps a ton, and (Pitching) Coach Lauren (Coursey) makes sure I always keep calm. Softball is a very nerve-wracking game, and she just tries to keep me doing my best.”
And doing their best is something both Bates and Cherokee County coach Brad Weaver have come to expect from their MVP performers.
“I never left the field any time where I didn’t feel like Jadyn didn’t give me everything she had,” Bates said. “When Ella (Grace Hood) went down (to a knee injury), Jadyn was like ‘I’ve got this.’ She stepped in the circle and gave me everything she had.
“Wallace (State) is getting a diamond in her. She is that all-around kid who can do anything you ask. She can play any position. She’s going to bring a lot of pop to the lineup when she hits. To finish with the number of RBIs, the number of hits and all that she had this year and her career is a testament to how hard she’s worked and the hours she’s put in hitting to perfect her craft. She definitely leaves a legacy. She’s a true competitor. I think that’s what makes it fun about watching her play the game, the way she competes and the way she performs on the field. She made me a great coach.”
Weaver said much the same about Hill.
“She has the resiliency of being a senior, even last year as an eighth grader. She just doesn’t like to lose,” Weaver said. “When she’s in the circle, she just takes charge and feels like she can sit anybody down. Once you get that mindset of I’m just as good as anybody out here, she takes that to heart and just feels like she can do anything. We’ve got a good future with her. She’s humble and wants to keep getting better.
“Her getting this MVP is an honor as a freshman, but she will take this and build on it. She won’t be satisfied with just winning it once. She’ll work her tail off to try and win it the next three (years). I know there are other players in the county who are the same way she is, but she’s going to work her tail off to be the best she can be to help her team out. As a freshman, she has a lot of high expectations.”
Joining Hill from Cherokee County on the all-county team is Abby Lea, Grayson Tucker, Lanie Williams and Audrey Haygood.
Joining Foster from Sand Rock is Hood, Katelyn StClair and Sherina Foster.
Representing Spring Garden is Kayley Kirk, Avery Steward and Helena Ingram. Chosen from Cedar Bluff is Natalie Baty, Mattie Payne and Reece Patterson. Sierra Holbrook and Andreah Calvert were chosen from Gaylesville.