Southside’s Graves signs with Troy

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By Chris McCarthy/Editor

Claire Graves wanted to compete at a high level in college softball for some time, and she finally got her wish on Monday (Nov. 17).

The Southside High senior pitcher signed a scholarship with Division I Troy University, fulfilling a goal that she had been chasing from an early age.

“I’ve been playing travel ball since I was seven years old, and ever since then I just knew that I was going to play for as long as I was able to,” said Graves. “I wanted to go to college for softball and have another four years to play. I just fell in love with the campus. They just built a whole new [softball] field and a brand new facility. 

“I also wanted to go to school for business, and that’s one of their main majors. I did want [college] to be close enough for my family and friends to watch me, so it turned out to be an easy decision.”

Graves also received interest from Snead State, Southern Union, the University of North Alabama, Ball State University in Indiana and Harding University in Arkansas.

Graves has been a member of the SHS varsity softball team since the seventh grade and also earned varsity letters in volleyball and track and field. 

In 82 innings last season, Graves finished with an 8-3 record with a 1.26 earned run average and 100 strikeouts as the Lady Panthers finished the regular season with a final ranking of No. 3 in Class 5A. After winning the area tournament, Southside went 2-2 at the North Regional in Huntsville. Graves was named to The Messenger’s All-Area Softball first team.

According to SHS head softball coach Angie Sanders, Graves has a shot at the 1,000 career strikeout milestone.

“She’s around 700 right now, so if she stays healthy, it’s possible,” said Sanders. “Claire’s worked hard and done very well for us. [SHS assistant softball and pitching coach] Eddie McConnell has had her since she was 10 years old and I’ve had she since the seventh grade, so it will be tough to lose her. Claire has the size and the build of an athlete, and I think she’ll do well in college. She’s got the speed and she’s got the pitches, which is good because the hitters are so much quicker at that level.”

Graves and her fellow softball seniors have high expectations for their final season in the crimson and black.

“Two years ago we made it to the state tournament for the first time, and I think that we all were so overwhelmed by just being there that we didn’t have the right mindset on actually winning a few games while we were there,” she said. “I think that last year we were kind of expecting to go [to state] again, and ended up coming up short when we lost at regionals. So this year I think that everyone has their heads set right. I’m very confident of my teammates, and I think we’ll make it far.” 

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