AJ's Faile signs with Pats

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Lady Vols' star shortstop joins Francis Marion

By Robert Howey

KERSHAW – The mid-afternoon buzz in the Andrew Jackson High School media center Friday wasn’t just about the end of the school week.

It was more about the start of a college athletic career as Lady Volunteers’ star shortstop Tristan Faile signed a softball scholarship to play at Francis Marion University.

A beaming Faile signed her papers as happy teammates, teachers, family and AJ principal Mary Barry and Lady Vols’ softball coach Steve Middleton witnessed her signing with the NCAA Division II school in Florence.

“Francis Marion is getting a steal in Tristan,” said Middleton of the 5-8 shortstop, a three-time all-region performer. “She will be a great asset to the Francis Marion program. They have a strong program and adding players like Tristan will only help them stay there.”

The Patriots, 39-16 last spring, gained their first-ever berth to the NCAA Division II national tournament, won the South Atlantic Regional and advanced to the Division II national finals in Houston. The Patriots have won at least 30 games in nine of the past 11 seasons.

“Francis Marion has an outstanding softball program and that’s one of the reasons I decided to go there,” Faile said. “They also have a good biology program and I want to major in that field.

“Francis Marion is also kinda close to home, not too close and not too far away,” she said.

Faile, who has one more season to play at AJ, has produced a sterling career as a four-year starter at shortstop.

Last spring, she batted .490 with 28 runs batted in and earned the team’s MVP Award, Best Offensive Player Award and Class AA all-state laurels for the 20-11 Lady Vols. As a sophomore, she batted .458 with 19 RBIs and 40 runs scored. In her freshman campaign, she hit .425 with 14 RBIs and tallied 50 runs. Faile, in her eighth-grade season, hit .390 with 11 runs batted in and scored 24 runs.

Over her career to date, the Lady Vols have posted a 113-12 mark with four region titles, two Class AA state championships and a pair of Lower State crowns.

“Tristan’s been a player for us and her statistics bear that out,” Middleton said. “She’s a big run-producer and she’s the one you always want at the plate in the clutch.”

Middleton added Faile is just as solid with her infield glove work.

“When her career is over here, she will probably go down as the softball player with the best fielding percentage in school history,” he said.

In addition to softball, Faile also played two seasons of volleyball.

Faile, the sister of former AJ ace pitcher Casey Faile who now plays at Louisiana State University, is also a star student.

She is No. 6 in the AJ Class of 2009 with a 4.49 grade point average. Faile is a member of the National Honor Society and serves as vice-president of the AJ Beta Club chapter.

Middleton added Faile is a solid member of the Lady Vols’ senior contingent on the AJ softball team, which includes Casey Hammond, Lauren Kirk, Natalie Dove and Caryn Truesdale.

“That’s an outstanding group and they’ve done plenty to put our softball program among the state’s best in all classes,” Middleton said. “I enjoy working with them and when one of them can take that step to the next level like Tristan did today, then it’s a great day for our community, school and athletic program.”

Middleton noted the key to Faile’s success.

“She works hard and was willing to play year round,” he said. “Tristan has done all she can to make this day special. It’s a proud moment for the Andrew Jackson High School family.”