Hamilton’s Tori Harrison concluded her final year at Northeast Community College in a major way, making a deep playoff run and helping her team reach the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament.
“Regionals were very challenging and very intense,” Harrison said. “It kind of pushed me to prove everyone wrong because everyone doubted us since we weren’t ranked, and all the other teams that we played in regionals and the state tournament were. Everyone thought that it was a mistake for us to be there, and that motivated me. No one thought that we could make it that far.”
Harrison strung together a few solid outings during Regionals, defeating Jones College and Copiah-Lincoln Community College, before falling to Northwest Mississippi Community College. After two years with the Lady Tigers, she is preparing to continue her softball career at Tuskegee University.
“I knew I wasn’t ready to give up softball yet, and Tuskegee just like another home away from home,” she said. “It’s a very historic school, and it’s pretty cool to learn about their history. It’s a Division II school, and we’re in the SIAC conference. We’ll be playing teams like Kentucky State, Spring Hill College, Lane College and Miles College.”
During the MACCC Tournament, after picking up wins over East Central Community College and Pearl River Community College, Harrison helped the Lady Tigers take a 19-18 win in 12 innings over Northwest.
Harrison referred to her performance as the best game she had all season as she finished the game with three hits, six RBIs and a home run - a grand slam. After the big win, the Lady Tigers had to face off against Jones, who defeated them twice in the regular season.
“That was probably one of my best games all season,” she said. “It was a very intense four-and-a-half-hour game, and I’d never played that long before in my life. We knew that we had to recuperate ourselves because I think in the state tournament, we beat Northwest and had to play Jones the next day. They had to write Northeast’s name on a piece of paper because they didn’t even think we’d make it that far.”
During her time at Northeast, Harrison tallied 51 hits, 41 RBIs, 11 doubles and seven home runs. She believes that community college helped her evolve into a more powerful hitter.
“I was never the power hitter in high school, but I would’ve considered myself a base-to-base hitter,” she said. “At Northeast, they saw the potential in me to be a power hitter, and they pushed me to get there. We focused a lot on getting bigger and working out more, and as the intensity of the games increased, my hitting got a lot better.”
Another change that Harrison had to face in her transition from high school to community college was the position she played. After signing with Northeast to play middle infield, Harrison was told that she would have to work her way to playing in the outfield.
“I signed at Northeast to play middle infield, but when I got there, the coach knew that I played more outfield in high school,” she said. “Then he asked me if I would rather play outfield and said I’d have to work for it. So, I chose to work harder instead of having the position given to me.”
The COVID year was seen as a difficult year for many, but Harrison saw it as a good opportunity to build chemistry with her teammates.
“It was very different, but it gave us a chance to get closer as a team,” she said. “At one point, they sent everyone home except the athletes, so we didn’t have a choice but to be around each other and bond.”
The increase in team chemistry was beneficial for the Lady Tigers as they finished this past season with a 33-22 record and reached NJCAA Region 23 Tournament.
“I think we were better my sophomore year because we were way closer than any other team,” she said. “That really helped us come together during games because we trusted each other. It was honestly great because I made friends, and I got the chance to do things on my own. My biggest thing is I want to be a leader, and I asked the coach how to become one.”
Harrison credits Hamilton coach Bryan Loague and her overall experience at Hamilton for laying the foundation for what it takes to play at the next level.
“Hamilton was a great foundation with the coaches and the people around, we played a lot of great competition that got me ready for college softball,” she said. “The competitive part of all the playoff runs was mainly the biggest thing for me. College ball isn’t as easy as people make it out to be because everyone is good there, and you have to work to earn your spot. That’s what Hamilton prepared me for, and Coach Loague is a great man who is like another dad to me. He always pushed me when I wanted to give up and things, and he told me, ‘You can go as far as you want to, but you just have to want to do it’.”
At Tuskegee, Harrison has her goals set on being more of a utility player for the Golden Lady Tigers, while becoming a better hitter.
“My main focus at Tuskegee is getting better as a utility player,” she said. “I love the outfield, but I want to be the type of player that can be put anywhere and be trusted to play anywhere on the field. I would really like to get a ring at the college level too, but mainly, I want to improve on my hitting. It’s not the best right now, and I know there are some things that I can work on there.”
Harrison was thankful for her time at Northeast, and she is excited to continue playing the sport that she loves.
“My time at Northeast was really just a great launch pad for me,” she said. “I never really thought that I’d play softball at Northeast honestly, but now that I have the opportunity to go further, it’s even better. They’re paying for school, and I get the chance to spend the next three years doing what I love.”