MURFREESBORO – Make no mistake. Savannah Lee had big plans for this softball season.
The Oakland softball standout had already signed with Birmingham-Southern. She was coming off an all-state season that included a team-high .438 batting average with eight home runs and 45 RBI.
Lee, an infielder for the Lady Patriots, was ready to help lead her team to the state tournament — something Oakland came one out from doing a year ago.
Oh, and she was just a handful of home runs from breaking the school record of 24 set by Amber Kinsey.
Yep, Lee had big plans.
But then it happened.
She tore her ACL and partially tore her meniscus in a tournament in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. And all of those lofty plans were suddenly replaced with physical pain and the realization that she had a long road ahead of her to get to fulfill her dream of college softball.
“It happened in the first five minutes of the game,” recalls Lee, retelling how the injury occurred.
It was a defensive rundown. Lee was playing third base.
“(Catcher) Michelle (Williams) threw it to me, and I was dead sure I was going to get her out,” she said. “She decided to stop, and it was really muddy. When I tried not to hit her, I just stuck and it popped.
“I was hoping it would be a hyper-extension or a sprain, and be out four weeks. I usually don’t go down easily. So going down was difficult for me.”
But this isn’t where her story ends. It’s simply the next chapter.
And it still includes softball, albeit in a new role.
The power hitter has become a cheerleader in the dugout, extending encouragement while often sitting in a wheelchair keeping her leg propped up. Lee hasn’t had surgery yet. Doctors want a larger range of flexibility in the knee before they repair it.
“They want it to be strong enough where it won’t get stiff after surgery,” Lee said. “The goal is to be able to bend it 120 degrees.”
Lee has accepted her place in the home run record books. She’ll finish her career two shy of tying the record. But she hasn’t given up on her teammates — and she has no plans to stop supporting them.
“The record really wasn’t that big of a deal,” Lee said. “What I’ve got to do now is support my girls.”
“This is my senior year. Knowing I’m done is hard. But I know I have to support them, and I know they are behind me 100 percent. This really isn’t just ball to me. It’s hanging out with them. I’m here for them.”
That’s what keeps her coming back to the softball diamond. She still believes her teammates can make a postseason run and get to state.
“She’s been phenomenal,” Oakland coach Janice Morey said. “Her attitude, her effort and joyousness around the girls has been great. You couldn’t ask for someone to take it in a better way than how she has taken it.
“She’s continued to be a leader for us by showing how hard she is working on other things.”
Tom Kreager is prep editor of The Daily News Journal. Contact him at 615-278-5178 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kreager.