BOONEVILLE – Chelsea Gates is enthusiastic to join a pair of former prep teammates as she begins her collegiate career at Northeast Mississippi Community College.
Gates became the newest member of the Tiger softball program after signing her National Letter of Intent (NLI) with the seven-time Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) North Division champions.
“Chelsea was probably one of the premier players in the state last year,” said Northeast head coach Jody Long. “She has outstanding command from the shortstop position and the outfield. She allows us to have tremendous speed at the top of our lineup.
“She has the opportunity to lay bunts down and the power to hit home runs. Anytime you can have someone with that capability at the plate it’s going to add pressure on your opponents.”
Gates is set to reunite with former Houston High School stars and current Tiger standouts Yasmeen Cooper and Avery Springer. Together, the trio helped the Lady Hilltoppers win the 2012 Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 4A championship.
“I’d like to play softball with them again,” Gates said. “It’ll be pretty great. I’m ready to see what the future holds.”
Houston compiled an impressive streak between 2012-14 with Gates in the middle infield. The Lady Hilltoppers played for three straight MHSAA Class 4A titles and notched a record of 86-19 in that three-year span.
Gates tallied a .500 batting average with a three-hit performance and a triple to lead Houston to a sweep of Newton County High School in the state championship series as a sophomore.
One year later, she compiled an impressive .750 on-base percentage in a thrilling three-game stretch with the MHSAA Class 4A North Half title on the line. Gates added her second home run of the season and a triple to push the Lady Hilltoppers past Corinth High School for their second straight berth to Ridgeland’s Freedom Ridge Park.
Gates propelled Houston back to the MHSAA Class 4A championship during her senior campaign by launching a grand slam in the decisive contest of a best-of-three series against Lafayette County High School. The long ball accounted for the winning runs in an 11-7 triumph and sent the Lady Hilltoppers back to suburban Jackson for a phenomenal third year in a row.
Gates was named to The Clarion-Ledger’s All-State team following her senior season. She posted 48 hits with 43 runs scored, 30 RBIs, 11 stolen bases, seven doubles, three triples and three homers.
“I chose (Northeast) because I thought it would be a nice place to play softball,” said Gates. “I heard about the team and how nice the girls are. I’d just like to join them. I’m pretty excited.”
Gates started at Houston for five years under the tutelage of coaches Keith Jernigan and Jeffrey Mann. She compiled a batting average of .397 with a .472 on-base percentage in 149 career high school outings.
She totaled 186 hits, 25 doubles, 18 triples and six home runs during her storied days in a Lady Hilltopper uniform. Gates developed a keen eye in the batters box and struck out only 22 times in a remarkable 541 plate appearances.
Gates knocked in a personal best five RBIs in a MHSAA Division 4, Class 4A win against Noxubee County High School last season. She tied a career-high with four base knocks in a solo game three times.
She twice received the MHSAA Division 4-4A Most Valuable Player award for slow-pitch. Gates was the league’s fast-pitch Overall Player of the Year as a junior and the Defensive Player of the Year in her final varsity campaign as well.
Gates participated in the 2013 Mississippi Association of Coaches (MAC) and the 2014 Northeast Mississippi Softball Coaches Association (NEMSBCA) All-Star Games. She played in both the NEMSBCA fast-pitch and slow-pitch contests at Nettleton High School.