Davis delivered special softball, basketball career for Lady Warriors

Tori Davis was a dominating pitcher for the Lady Warriors. Photo Special to WEIS.

By Shannon Fagan, WEIS Sports Director

NOTE: This is the first of five Q&A features on the Cherokee County Hall of Fame Class of 2024 inductees. The induction ceremony will take place this Saturday at Richard Lindsey Arena beginning at 6 p.m. The ceremony is open to the public and there is no charge for admission. Today’s Hall of Fame focus features former Cherokee County High School multi-sport standout Tori Davis Granthum.

Known for her softball and basketball skills at Cherokee County High School, Tori Davis led the Lady Warriors to four straight Class 4A state softball tournament appearances (2010-13), two of which ended in state runner-up showings (2011 and 2012). She was also part of six Cherokee County softball championship teams and area title teams from 2008-13.

As a junior in 2012, Davis compiled a 39-3 record with a 0.60 ERA in the pitching circle. She struck out 275 batters in 255 innings. Davis also delivered at the plate, batting .496 with 17 doubles, five home runs, two triples, 14 walks, 38 runs and 42 RBIs. She was chosen as the Class 4A Player of the Year by the Alabama Sports Writers Association following the season.

Davis had an equally impressive senior softball season in 2013. She went 40-7 in the circle with 447 strikeouts and a 0.47 ERA. At the plate, Davis batted .379 with seven home runs, 38 runs and 54 RBIs. She threw five no-hitters and pitched two perfect games. She also tied the AHSAA state record for fourth with most shutouts in a season (29). Davis was honored by the ASWA as its Player and Pitcher of the Year, as well as a selection on the Super All-State Team.

Cherokee County High School retired Davis’s number 00 in 2015.

In basketball, Davis helped lead the Lady Warriors to two Northeast Regional appearances (2011, 2013), three area championships (2010-13) and three Cherokee County championships (2011-13). She was selected to the Northeast Regional All-Tournament Team in 2013.

Davis scored over 1,000 points in her basketball career and also set the Lady Warrior scoring record in a game with 43 points against Alexandria.

Davis signed a softball scholarship with the University of North Alabama. She suffered an injury to her pitching shoulder which required surgery. Davis battled her way back and helped the Lady Lions win the 2016 NCAA Division II National Championship.

After graduating from UNA in only three years, Davis still had two years of athletic eligibility remaining. She received a scholarship as a graduate transfer to Faulkner University. During the 2017 season, Davis pitched in 17 games and finished with a 1.30 ERA with a season-high 10 strikeouts against Brewton-Parker. In 2018, Davis pitched in 14 games and compiled a 6-1 record with a 1.43 ERA, helping Faulkner advance to its first ever NAIA World Series.

After graduating from Faulkner in 2018 with a master’s degree in Math Secondary Education, Davis was hired as a math teacher and coach at Foley High School. She is married to Walter Granthum.

Q: Let’s start with growing up. When did you realize you had talents that were better than most girls, and guys for that matter, you were growing up around?

A: “I wouldn’t say I never noticed I was better than anyone else. Growing up, my mom and dad, which I’m very thankful for, always made me play with my sister. My sister (Deidra) is 19 months older than I am. If we were at a softball tournament I was on my sister’s softball team. If we were playing basketball, I was playing with my sister. My parents making me do that, it always taught me to play harder and stronger than I needed to because they were always bigger and stronger than I was. Them making me do that I believe helped me grow as an athlete, helped me get better as an athlete. It also led me to be stronger and to be more aggressive than if I was to play with the girls my age. I’m very thankful my parents did that. I’m very appreciative they made me always strive to be better and strive to play with my sister’s age group, if not higher than my sister’s age group.

“I remember one time one summer, I got the chicken pox. Unfortunately I gave the chicken pox to my sister. She had them way worse than I did. My sister had a softball tournament coming up. It was travel ball. My mom was like ‘You’re going to play in her spot for her.’ Here I go, playing up with my sister’s group. It’s supposed to be her in the outfield and here I am in the outfield.

“I never thought I’d be stronger than any of my teammates or the girls that I played with. I just always wanted to be better for my team. That’s how I saw it, how can I be better for my team? How can I be better for my school? That’s just how I went about it.”

Q: Talking about your sister Deidra, was there a natural competitiveness between you two?

A: “Yes, I think there had always been a natural competitiveness between us. We had a basketball goal outside in the front yard. We would always go out there and shoot. We’d play HORSE. We’d play COW. I’m so thankful for this, she was my catcher. I would drag her out there and said ‘Hey, I want to go pitch and you’re going to catch.’ We would go and I would throw a bad drop ball. It would hit her in the face and she’d throw her glove down. She’d say ‘I’m done. You’re the worst pitcher ever.’ To this day, she claims that’s the reason why I was the pitcher I was, and I believe that. If I wouldn’t have had my sister I wouldn’t have been the pitcher I was. She would take me out and I’d pitch and she would catch. She would always strive for me to be better. She would be like ‘That’s not good enough’ and we would throw another pitch. I’m very thankful for her because she was competitive. It made me competitive. I looked up to her. She was only 19 months older than I was.

“Yes, there was Jenny Finch and there was Monica Abbott as pitchers I would watch, but there was never a college or professional athlete I was like ‘I want to be like them.’ But I would look up to my sister and the girls who were in her grade or the girls playing before me. I would be like ‘I want to pitch or play like them.’ I always wanted to strive to be a little better than my sister or be right there with her. I think her competitiveness always helped me become better. I think that’s the good thing about growing up. We were so close together. Yes, we would bicker back and forth, but we would never fight. We’d always just try and compete with each other. We would help each other on the court. We would help each other on the field. We would always try and make each other better. I’m very thankful we were able to play together and that we were so close together that we were able to have that time together.”

Q: How about the other members of your family? How much of an impact did they have on your career?

A: “I couldn’t have done it without my family. My mom (Cathy) and dad (Doug) started my sister and I really young with tee ball. We would go up to the fields in Leesburg and always played. My dad would help coach. In basketball, we would always play in the Gadsden Rec League. It was always a strong basketball league.

“My parents always pushed us. They sacrificed so much for my sister and me to play sports. At the time I didn’t realize how much they sacrificed, but being a mom now, I can see how much they sacrificed. I really appreciate it. I probably didn’t tell them thank you enough, but I really do appreciate what they did – not only my parents but my grandparents on both sides who were really supportive of my sister and me.

“If my mom and dad couldn’t make it to a game or get us to a softball game on the weekend, my dad’s parents would always load us up in the van and take us where we needed to go. Growing up I remember my granddad would always take us to school and pick us up from school. My grandmother would help us with our homework or she would have a snack ready for us. The family support has always been there and I’m very, very appreciative of it.”

Q: You played on some incredible teams in both basketball and softball. How much of an impact did your teammates and coaches have on your career?

A: “I think it was a privilege when I was in Centre that Travis Barnes was my basketball and my softball coach. Not many people get to have that opportunity. That was a great privilege because we would move from one season or one sport to the next with him. He was a great coach. He found ways to motivate us. He found ways to drive us. He always knew how to get us going for a game or for a practice. He always knew each individual player and what was best for them, how he could motivate us. He was a great coach in basketball and in softball. He did well in both sports.

“I was fortunate enough as a seventh grader starting to play. My sister, she graduated with Kaitlyn Griffith and Lauren Millsaps and those great players. She was in the same grade they were, so I was able to play with Kaitlyn. I was able to play with Lauren. I was able to play with the girls above me. I started out playing with them, and those teams were strong. They were good, and then they graduated. I was a sophomore at the time they were seniors. My junior year, we had a great junior class. We had to step up and become the leaders.

“The girls I played with, it was such a privilege. The five of us were always together. We grew up playing little, and I think that was a good thing too. We started out young. We stayed together. We grew up together and we played together. Some of those girls were Madison Brannon, Chelsea Ray, Darbie Rosser and Emily Perry. Those were the five seniors my senior year. We were just a good group of kids and girls who played together. I really enjoyed it. There were special memories made. We had some great memories, some great games together. It’s those times that help build for when you go off into the future. With the way Coach Barnes coached us, the way he taught us, he taught us life lessons, they really shaped me once I got to college. I was on my own when I went to UNA. It really helped me grow into young lady I became.”

Q: You scored over 1,000 points in your basketball career, including a record-setting game against Alexandria, when you scored 43 points. What made you such a good scorer?

A: “Our team, my junior and senior years, we were really good about fast breaks, running the ball and running the court. Darbie and Chelsea and Madison were really good about getting the ball up the court. I would just run on a fast break. That’s how we scored a lot of our points those two years. We had a good team collaboration. We worked together. I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere I am today or the accomplishments I have if it weren’t for my teammates.

“My dad used to coach and he would always push my sister and me. If we ever had a bad game – I guess this is a good thing about being a coach’s daughter – we would always come up here and we would practice. I remember those nights and I dreaded those nights. I knew we had a bad game and we were going to come up here and practice. Looking back on those nights, I’m very thankful he did that. I’m very thankful he made us come up here and shoot extra free throws come out to the field and hit extra balls or stay after games if we had a bad hitting game. We would always go into the hitting facility and we would hit. At that point I was like ‘No, I want to go home’ but I’m very thankful he made us do it because it made me become a better player.”

Q: Your number 00 softball jersey was retired in 2015. How special of a moment was that for you?

A: “It’s humbling to see that, to know that you’re always being watched and people are always looking up to you no matter what your role is. With that happening, it was very humbling, very surreal just to know I had an impact whether I realized it or not when I was playing. When I was playing, I was just trying to do it for the team, to try and benefit the team. I wasn’t trying to benefit myself. Just through that, this is where that came in, through our teamwork and through my teammates. The retiring of my jersey wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for my teammates. They’re the ones who helped me get there. I owe it all to them because they’re the ones who got the outs. I got a few people out, but I didn’t strike that many people out. They’re the ones in the field behind me backing me up. They’re the ones who were on the court passing the ball to me and giving me the assists. I owe it all to them.”

Q: You also set the bar high in the classroom – class valedictorian, Wendy’s High School Heisman Award finalist. Did winning in the classroom come as natural as it was in sports?

A: “Neither of them came naturally. I always had to study. Math kind of came naturally, because I’m a math teacher now, but other than that I always had to study. I was not always top of the class. I had to study my way to get there. Sports didn’t come naturally. I had to work hard at both softball and basketball. Pitching was year around. Basketball was year around. I wouldn’t say it all came naturally because it didn’t. The talents came from God, but getting to where I was, I had to work for that.”

Q: After high school, you went on to the University of North Alabama, but suffered a shoulder injury. How hard was your road to recovery?

A: “I had shoulder problems in high school just from pitching a lot of games. It really got worse when I got into college. My first year I did have a labrum surgery done on my shoulder. It did set me back to where I wasn’t able to pitch as well when I was at UNA. I pitched a few games here and there, but during my time and looking back it really stunk not being able to play, not being able to pitch, but it helped me see that this was God’s plan. During that time I really grew in my faith. I really grew closer to God. I knew he had me there for a reason. Through that I just grew as a person. Those three years at UNA were not the easiest three years of sports I would say. Sports at the high school had come naturally, but there it was nail to nail competitive. Sometimes you either get to play or you’re going to sit the bench. The road to the national championship I realized even though I wasn’t getting to play I still had to have a role on the team. That was cheering my teammates on. Yes, it hurt at the time not getting to play, but looking back I see that I had a purpose. God had me there for a reason and I just needed to be a good teammate, to cheer my teammates on.

“I graduated from UNA in December of 2016. I still had my two years (of eligibility) remaining from my shoulder surgery my freshman year. I went on to Faulkner University and I got my Master’s. I graduated from there in the spring of 2018. From just being with UNA and going to Faulkner, I was still growing – not only as a player and a pitcher but also as a person. I just think that time at UNA helped mold me. It helped me see beyond what sports were. It’s not always going to be what you want it to be. You always have to have a better foundation in your faith to keep you going. When the sports fall, or something falls, you have to have that.”

Q: Anything you’d like to say to the audience who will be in attendance at Saturday’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony?

A: “First of all, thank you. This is very humbling. I never expected this. When I was playing, I never really thought about anything like this. I just wanted it for the team. This is very humbling. I’m very appreciative. For those who helped me get here, there’s too many to start naming. I would leave several names off the list. There’s so many people who deserve a thank-you for getting me where I was and getting me to become the lady I am today.

“I have so many friends I grew up with. We were always together like a good group of friends. I owe a lot to them. A lot of them I played with. My coaches throughout the years, I couldn’t thank them enough. I really thank the Hall of Fame staff and committee for inducting me. This is a great honor. I thank you so much.

“It was an honor playing for Cherokee County High School. It was an honor to get to play at Faulkner. I’m appreciative for everything and everybody. It’s hard to realize it when you’re in the moment when you’re doing the things you’re doing. You always forget there’s someone else behind the scenes doing something. When you’re in the moment you always forget to tell them thank you. I want to thank all those people who were behind the scenes doing things I never realized.”

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