Mizelle named softball Player of the Year
She’s had a softball in her hand since she was two years old.
The love she developed for the game helped her earn a scholarship to college, a myriad of individual awards and led her team to two Northeastern Coastal Conference championships and four state playoff appearances in her four seasons.
The skill, ability and love for the game also made Bertie High School graduate Jody Mizelle the best softball player in the Roanoke-Chowan region.
“She was the tie in the knot that kept our team together,” stated Bertie Head Softball Coach Jackie Copeland. “We faced a lot of adversity due to injuries, but Jody was a leader through it all. She and her teammates worked so hard to keep us in the playoff hunt and helped us reach our goal.”
Copeland said it was exactly what she expected from Mizelle.
“Jody was such a leader,” the coach said. “She hit leadoff for us and when she got on base, the whole mood of our team changed. It made everyone else know we were in for a good day.”
During her senior season, Mizelle hit at a .608 clip with eight homeruns, 12 triples and 10 doubles. She had on on-base percentage of .623 and stole 16 bases, despite a nagging injury.
Mizelle also had 23 RBIs during the season and struck out a single time.
“This was a good season in many ways for me,” she said. “I enjoyed the team we had at Bertie and I enjoyed winning, especially beating Northeastern.
“My teammates were great people and I enjoyed playing softball with them,” she added.
Mizelle had an excellent season not only in the area of numbers, but also with the intangibles, according to her coach.
“She’s gone from a being a young player with all the potential in the world to a mature young lady who has grown in both attitude and ability,” Copeland said. “She is a quiet person until you get to know her, but I needed her to be a more vocal leader in her senior year and I got exactly what I asked for.”
Mizelle said she enjoyed playing for Copeland during her four seasons at Bertie.
“It’s been a good experience,” she said. “She’s been a good coach. Coach cares about more than what you do playing softball, she cares about you personally.”
Mizelle also said she credited much of her success in softball to her father, Faron Mizelle.
“My dad has always been around and guided me in softball,” she said.
When the fall comes, Mizelle’s softball career will not be over as she has signed a National Letter of Intent to play at Lenoir-Rhyne College. There she will have the opportunity to play as a freshman and could earn the starting shortstop duties as early as her sophomore season.
“I wanted to play as a freshman,” she admitted. “I don’t want to sit on the bench. Who wants to go to college to watch others play? I want on the field.”
Copeland said she was sure Mizelle could play anywhere she chose.
“In my personal opinion, she will do well at Lenoir-Rhyne,” Copeland said. “In fact, she could have played at the D-I level had she chosen to go that route.”
Mizelle actually began her playing career in Farm League at the age of four and had participated in summer and travel softball ever since. She was part of the 2007 National Champion Babe Ruth Softball team and currently plays for the North Carolina Flames 18-and-under team.
As she continues, Copeland said she will be remembered as one of the best players to ever don a Bertie High School softball uniform.
“She is the most outstanding player I’ve ever coached and I have had some extraordinarily talented players in my 15 years at Bertie,” she said. “She is excellent in softball as well as learning tennis. She is a true athlete.”
Mizelle is the daughter of Faron and Cheryl Mizelle of Windsor.
Best Offensive Player – Emily Cooke
Ridgecroft School Head Coach Larry Smith knew when he needed a hit, an RBI or a person to get on base he could count on Emily Cooke. The senior catcher was always solid at the plate and this year was no exception.
Cooke hit .565 during her senior season with a homerun, five triples and nine doubles. She had an on-base percentage of .687 with 31 runs scored and 16 RBIs.
“I knew I could always count on Emily in a clutch situation,” Smith said. “She was an outstanding talent on the softball field and did an excellent job for us.”
Cooke will be going to Meredith College in the fall where she intends to play softball. She is the daughter of Dr. Robert and Valorie Cooke of Ahoskie.
Best Defensive Player – Tayler Smith
Tayler Smith has the knack for being strong on the defensive side of any game.
During her senior season at Ridgecroft she continued her job as shortstop for the Lady Rams and finished with an outstanding .934 fielding percentage with 24 putouts during the season.
“She is one of the smartest and most knowledgeable players I’ve ever seen,” Ridgecroft School Assistant Coach Jon Northcott said. “Tayler leads by example on the field.
“Her defense is outstanding. She makes plays others simply don’t,” he added. “She’s able to do the number one because of her speed and two, because of her desire to succeed.”
Smith is planning to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill next season. She is the daughter of Larry and Crystal Smith of Aulander.
Best Pitcher – Hillary Bunch
Leading the Gates County High School softball team from the mound is always a tough position.
The Lady Red Barons are one of the most successful softball programs in the Roanoke-Chowan region and expect to win.
This year, the Lady Barons were led by Hillary Bunch, who helped Gates County reach the second round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 1-A playoffs as well as capture the Tar-Roanoke Conference championship.
“Hillary just did an outstanding job for us all season,” Gates County Coach Amanda Keel said. “When she was on the mound, we were in good shape.”
Bunch is the daughter of Eddie and Ervina Bunch of Gatesville.
Coach of the Year – Jackie Copeland
When Bertie High School started practice in 2010, the Lady Falcons expected to compete for a Northeastern Coastal Conference championship.
The unthinkable happened, however, as Bertie lost several starters, including top pitcher Caroline White to injury. Despite the setbacks, however, Head Coach Jackie Copeland calmly guided her team through the season and finished one game out of second place and made the North Carolina High School Athletic Association playoffs.
Her calm hand and coaching acumen led the Lady Falcons to have a solid season despite injuries and led to her selection as Coach of the Year.
The First Team All-Roanoke-Chowan selections in softball included:
Jody Mizelle, Bertie High
Emily Cooke, Ridgecroft School
Tayler Smith, Ridgecroft School
Hillary Bunch, Gates County High
Terri-Lynn Smith, Bertie High
Mary Kate Morris, Ridgecroft School
Bobbie Doughtie, Gates County High
Courtney Malone, Hertford County High
Jennifer Sykes, Northeast Academy
Courtney Mizell, Lawrence Academy
Jennifer White, Lawrence Academy
Tiowand Pugh, Northampton-East