Lindsey Stokes might be leaving Harlem to play college softball, but she has no intention of saying goodbye to the program that shaped her.
Stokes helped slug the Lady Bulldogs to a berth in the Class AA state championship game and is The Augusta Chronicle Softball Player of the Year.
Stokes started throughout her four-year career at Harlem for coach Mike Leverett, who said he remembered her as a sixth-grader helping her father prepare the softball field for the varsity team.
“She wanted to be on the team as a sixth-grader, and if I could have put her on the team, she probably would have started,” Leverett said.
Instead, Stokes made her mark three years later as a starting freshman, leading the team with a batting average over .400. She quickly made an impact as a middle-of-the-order hitter while gunning down runners from right field.
Leverett was forced to move Stokes to third base for her senior season out of necessity, and she never moved back. While filling an infield hole, Stokes hit .457 with five home runs and 42 RBI. She earned Region 3-AA Player of the Year honors for the second consecutive season as Harlem finished second to Calhoun in the Class AA state playoffs.
“We were a lot closer because we knew how each other’s personalities work, and we bonded because we knew we had to work harder to have success this year,” Stokes said. “I think working harder made us improve individually, which made us improve as a team.”
Stokes said being on the team helped her mature as a player and person, and her teammates made her high school experience that much better.
“Coach made me grow up and not rely on my parents as much, and I think that made me a better person and softball player,” she said. “Your mom and dad can’t save you out on the field. It’s just you and the girls, and that’s why you bond so much better with them.”
Stokes’ career at Harlem ended with the state championship game, but she intends to return and support the program.
She signed a letter of intent to play at Georgia Regents, meaning she will be a short distance from her former home field.
“I thought I put everything I had into this program for more than four years,” she said. “I’m not going to leave for a lifetime. Even though I don’t get to wear the jersey anymore, I’m still going to be up here.”
Leverett will get to see her former star when she plays for the Jaguars, and despite losing one of the most productive players in his program’s history, he understands it’s part of the process.
“It’s going to be tough to lose her, but she’s going to a better place,” Leverett said. “She came through Harlem to get to the next place.
“It’ll be a big loss for Harlem, but the mark she left here will be remembered forever.”