Cambridge High School scored a “triple” last week with no less than three senior girls signing to play college athletics at the Division I level.
Announcing on the first day of the early signing period that they'll be heading to D-I schools next fall were Sarah Starr, headed to Kent State University for softball; Janelle Givens, going to Morehead State for softball; and Tamikka Snoddy, bound for Wright State University to play basketball.
Both Starr and Givens have been key components in the recent success of the Lady Bobcats' softball program. Last spring, CHS advanced to the Division II Regional Tournament after winning the sectional and district along with the OVAC Class 4-A regular season title.
“It's pretty exciting,” CHS softball coach Bob Shepard offered. “Five years ago when we took over, we told them softball would be more than something to do in April and May. We'll have four girls who will have played college softball now and we have some others I feel can also play college ball.”
CHS grad Tasha Mattis played two years at Ohio Northern University and is now running track there while Danielle Shepard is in her freshman year at West Liberty State College.
Shepard cited the willingness of Starr and Givens to make softball a 12-month endeavor as key to their success.
“A lot of this is attributed to them playing a lot of ball in the summertime,” he said, “because that's when the college coaches can see them more than during the high school season. They all played for Rick Sherman and the Road Runners in the summer and that's been key. Between high school and travel ball, they've probably played more than 130 game each of the last four years.
“These two have both started since their freshman year and they've been a very integral part of our success.”
Starr, a superb defensive player at shortstop, selected Kent State over the likes of Morehead State, West Liberty and Muskingum.
“Their softball coach's philosophy about academics before softball,” Starr said helped make her decision to attend KSU, which has been picked in the top 10 in the country for next spring. “I really felt at home there and there's a lot of stuff to do on campus.”
Starr's season-by-season statistics thus far include: freshman – .457 batting average with 48 hits, 32 runs scored and 19 RBI; sophomore – .358 batting average with 39 hits, 26 runs scored and 14 RBI; junior – .318 batting average with 35 hits, 27 runs scored and 12 RBI.
She earned first team all-East Central Ohio League last spring and was a second team all-Eastern District Division II and OVAC Class 4-A selection.
Undecided on her college major, Sarah is the daughter of Kerry and Chris Starr.
Givens, who carries a big bat to the plate and also plays a solid outfield, chose Morehead State (Kentucky) over schools such as Shepherd, Muskingum, West Liberty, Marietta and Ursuline.
“I liked the small school atmosphere and it's still Division I,” Givens said of her choice. “I really liked the coaches and they're one of the top five schools in the nation for sports management.”
Givens' season-by-season statistics include: freshman – .269 batting average with 21 hits, 20 runs scored and 15 RBI; sophomore – .277 batting average with 23 hits, 19 runs scored and 14 RBI; junior – .261 batting average with 24 hits, 15 runs scored and 10 RBI.
She was second team all-Eastern District Division II last season and gained ECOL honorable mention as a sophomore.
Both girls bring a lot to the table, according to Shepard.
Starr's assets include her defensive prowess and ability to put the bat on the ball.
“One of biggest things you look at is strikeouts per at-bats and she's only struck out once every 63 at-bats,” Shepard said. “She also has a fielding percentage well over .900,” he continued, “and a lot of people in our league know if you hit the ball in the hole, she's going to be able to go get it.”
Givens presents a different problem for the opposition.
“Janelle is more of a power hitter,” Shepard related. “She's led us in home runs since she was a freshman and she's also got a very good eye at the plate and led us in walks the last three years. She's very strong and likes to use a heavy bat.
“She's also very good defensively in the outfield with a good arm and good knowledge of the game.”
Shepard looks for both Starr and Givens to have successful college careers.
“A lot of kids will sign and won't see much playing time their first couple of years,” he said, “but after talking to their (college) coaches, I think both of these girls will have a chance to play immediately.”
“They're looking very strong at Janelle for an outfield position at Morehead,” Shepard said, “and Sarah will be an impact player immediately in the middle infield at Kent.”
Snoddy, a 6-1 post player for the Lady Bobcats' basketball team, enters her senior season on the hardwood with career totals of 720 points (11.6 per game), 476 rebounds (7.7 per game), 103 assists and 72 steals. She averaged 9.5 point and 8.2 rebounds as a freshman; 12.9 points and 7.1 rebounds as a sophomore and 12.3 points and 7.8 rebounds as a junior.
“She's really devoted herself exclusively to basketball,” commented CHS girls' basketball coach Dan Linscott, “but a lot of times that doesn't result in a Division I scholarship. She's fortunate to have good genetics on her side and she's got good feet and soft hands. She has very nice basketball skills for a girl who's six-feet tall.
“I'm proud of Tamikka,” Linscott continued, “and I think she's really opening the door for some of our future athletes here at Cambridge High School because there haven't been that many who have gone on to the Division I level.”
Linscott feels Snoddy will be looked up to – both literally and figuratively – during her senior season.
“I think she'll step it up this year,” he said. “She's averaged between 10 and 12 points each year and I think she can take it to the next level this year and get up to the 16-18 point range.
“I think she'll be our leader this year,” Linscott said. “She's a four-year starter and any time you have a Division I player, they should be the leader.”
Linscott feels Snoddy's best basketball is ahead of her.
“I think she's only scratched the surface here,” he related. “Obviously, the AAU opportunity she got was fantastic for her. She's traveled all over the last two years and I'm sure a lot of people saw her and I know Coach Williams at Wright State is really excited about getting her.”
Snoddy looks forward the opportunity to attend Wright State.
“I'm really excited about it,” she said. “I've always wanted to play college basketball. I take after my brother (Anthony Cunningham) because he also played college ball.”
Snoddy, who plans to get into athletic training or sports management at Wright State, know what area she need to improve on the most.
“They like my quickness for my size, ” she said, “but I've definitely got to work on free throws.”
Snoddy already has several all-star accolades to her credit. As a junior, she was honorable mention all-Ohio Division II; first team all-District 12 and East Central Ohio League; and second team all-Eastern District and all-OVAC Class 4-A. As a sophomore, she gained special mention Eastern District and honorable mention ECOL and District 12 accolades.
Snoddy is the daughter of Priscilla Snoddy and Charles Taylor and the granddaughter of Blanche Steward.