The senior baseball and softball players both signed with nearby Jacksonville State University at separate ceremonies at their respective schools Wednesday, turning down the opportunity to pursue playing at higher-profile schools.
Both honored longtime commitments when they rendered their signature on the Gamecocks’ offers. Both made verbal pledges to Jacksonville State prior to the start of their junior season. Borders, a 5-foot-8 catcher/outfielder shunned an offer from SEC school Georgia as well as interest from University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and South Alabama.
“They offered me at the end of this past summer,” Borders said of the Lady Bulldogs. “I was already committed to JSU. It’s my dream school and I’ve always known that I wanted to go there.”
Borders was a first-team all-state selection as a sophomore when she played in the outfield. She switched to catcher last season and was named an all-state selection again as a designated hitter and was chosen The Star’s Class 4A-6A Player of Year by local coaches. She had a .540 batting average, including 11 home runs and 81 hits last season.
Borders is the third Alexandria catcher to sign with a Division 1 school, following in the footsteps of former Lady Valley Cubs Allie Barker, who also played at Jacksonville State and Issa Brown, now at UAB.
“She has the leadership abilities to handle pitchers and situations,” 10th year Alexandria coach Brian Hess said. “She’s a great athlete but what goes unnoticed is how smart she is. She really has a feel for the game. You can coach them all you want but it’s the ones that have that feel for the game that can take it to the next level.”
Lipscomb was a hot commodity, following a sophomore season in which he went a perfect 7-0 with 93 strikeouts in 53 innings with a 0.67 earned run average on his way to being named the state’s Class 1A Pitcher of the Year.
Last year, the big 6-foot-2, 225-pound right-hander was limited to just 28 innings of action due to an elbow injury that required Tommy Johns surgery to repair just two weeks after the season. That didn’t stop him from going 5-0 and striking out 62 for a .50 ERA.
He has a career record of 16-1, including 207 strikeouts in 110 innings for a 0.7 ERA.
He chose Jacksonville State despite interest from Auburn, Alabama and a myriad of junior colleges.
“The coaches, definitely the coaches,” Lipscomb replied when asked what influenced his decision. (Head) Coach (Jim) Case, Coach (Travis Janssen) and Coach G (Steve Gillispie) They want to get to know you as a person, instead of just bypassing you like coaches at other schools.”
Lipscomb said he first encountered the down-to-earth, personal bunch of coaches that eventually won him over as a ninth-grader playing fall ball at Jacksonville State. The coaches approached him in the dugout during a game and introduced themselves to him. It was a small gesture that made a big impression.
Lipscomb said he’s nearly fully-recovered five months removed his operation. He suspects he’ll back to throwing his fastball in the low 90s as he’s accustomed to in about two weeks.
He said opting to sign early rather than wait to see what offers might arise will relieve him of the burden of worrying about who might show up to watch him as he prepares for his final season of high school ball.
“I’ve heard about five or six pro coaches say that Jim Case is the best pitching coach in the country,” Lipscomb’s father and Ragland coach Rodney said. “Why go Alabama or Auburn when Jacksonville State is right by the house.”
Nick Birdsong covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575. Follow him on Twitter at @birds_word.