By Tommy Howard
Joanna Powell and Elizabeth Bryant are graduating from Andrews High School Thursday night, but the seniors will still have two more years to play softball together.
That's because they've signed to play softball for Aiken Tech and work on associate's degrees there.
Coach Mitch Smith came from Aiken to Andrews for a signing ceremony Friday at the media center to welcome his two newest members of the Lady Knights.
Both girls were named to the North-South All Star team.
Powell, pitcher/ 3rd baseman, was 13-7 on the season with a 2:15 ERA and batted .371.
She was named to the All-State team, All-Region team, is the 7AA Region player of the year and the team Co-MVP.
Bryant, catcher and center fielder, was co-leader in fielding percentage at .956 and led the team with 6 sacrifices and 127 putouts, while batting .315.
Powell is pitcher and 3rd baseman for this year's Lady Yellow Jackets at Andrews.
She's played travel ball with Carolina Express for five years, and Dixie Softball four years.
"I've always played travel ball with Pat [Wildes]. Mitch [Smith] used to be at USC-Salkehatchie. He signed two girls in my 9th grade year" and she got to know Smith through those connections.
"When I visited [Aiken] in the fall, I fell in love with the school," Powell said. "They've got a good nursing program. I just love the school."
At Andrews, Powell is in the chorus group but "softball is my main goal in high school," she said.
She's picked nursing "because of my love for caring for people. Ever since I was little I wanted to help," Powell said.
"Some people are gifted for it, and I feel like I am."
"Blood doesn't bother me," she said.
Powell has played varsity softball throughout high school, plus two years of JV softball.
As a varsity player, she's been short stop, outfielder, pitcher and 3rd baseman.
With the Dixie Softball program, in her four years the team has won four state titles, two World Series, runner-up and 3rd place.
"This is my fifth year playing now," she said.
The Dixie Debs have girls from all four of Georgetown County's high schools.
At Aiken, Powell will play outfield and pitch.
After earning her associate degree and R.N. in nursing, she plans to come back to Georgetown County.
She is the daughter of Donnie and Nancy Powell.
Bryant is catcher and outfielder for Andrews High School. Along with Powell, she played varsity four years and JV two ears.
She was with Carolina Express four years, and has played Dixie Softball since she was 10 years old.
After her two years at Aiken Tech, she plans to transfer to a four-year college to major in physical education, likely at Lander University in Greenwood.
"I like playing sports, and teaching kids how to play sports and stay in shape," Bryant said.
She's heard that Aiken has a good softball program "so I wanted to play there," she said.
She wants to continue at Lander because of its good physical education program, "and it will give me a chance to try new things away from home."
"I would like to come back here, teach here and maybe coach here one day," Bryant said.
In high school, softball takes up "all my time."
She's an altar server and member of the youth group at St. Mary Our Lady of Ransom Catholic Church in Georgetown.
She's a daughter of Chet and Sharon Bryant.
Softball coach Mitch Smith said the Lady Knights had a 25 and 30 record last year.
The spring season started with 17 kids, and 13 of them were freshmen. At the end of the season, 12 kids were left and 11 of them were freshmen.
"The competition has gotten so much better," Smith said. "I had to tell myself, this is a rebuilding year."
The previous year, Aiken Tech lost the program because of disciplinary problems. The president of the college stepped in and shut it down.
Now, as he's working on rebuilding the program, Smith has girls from all over South Carolina, along with a couple from Atlanta and one from Maryland.
For Powell and Bryant, Smith said, their costs are pretty well covered for tuition and housing, with their academic and athletic funding and state funding.