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Freedom players to further careers

By Stephen Dawkins

When the Freedom Fastpitch softball team first formed, college scholarships were far from the players’ minds.
Eight years worth of fastballs, foul balls and force outs later, playing at the next level became the goal-and almost all the Freedom players have reached that goal.
After graduating from high school in May, no less than 10 players off the team, including Thorsby’s Ashlin Hilyer, will be playing college softball in the fall.
“That’s something we’ve worked toward,” said Doug Matthews, who has coached this particular Freedom team since his daughter, Meliah, began playing in 2002. “We started playing when they were 9 or 10, so we weren’t thinking about scholarships then. As they got around 14 or so, some of them started thinking they might want to play in college.
“It’s been a lot of hard work and dedication.”
Every player for Clanton-based Freedom that has participated for several years will continue their careers at a college.
The players, with their high school and college listed in parentheses, are: Meliah Matthew (Marbury-Judson), Brooke Smitherman (Prattville-Mississippi College), Haley Seamon (Marbury-Southern Union), Caitlyn Joiner (Prattville-Southern Union), Morgan Morrison (Bibb County-Bevill State), Megan Morrison (Bibb County-Bevill State), Lauren Welch (Marbury-Bevill State), Tori Herman (Prattville-Bevill State), Courtney Baker (Hooper Academy-Auburn University-Montgomery), and Hilyer (Thorsby-Huntingdon).
Doug Matthews said seeing the players have the opportunity to continue their careers is the most satisfying part of his experience with the team.
“All the tournaments we’ve won pales in comparison, I think, to what they’ve accomplished individually,” he said.
It also makes the years of work seem worthwhile. Meliah Matthews, Smitherman and the Morrison sisters were part of the original group, and Doug Matthews has always been the coach.
Travel softball season can last from September through November and then from March through July, so Matthews will suddenly have much more free time.
“I might fish awhile,” he said. “I haven’t been able to fish much the past eight years.”