North Central Texas College has never produced any big names in softball. In fact, NCTC’s softball team, of the National Junior College Athletic Association, doesn’t frequently play on television and has never won a national championship.
But, when NCTC players Brooke Deckard, Jaiden Pelton, Meagan Richardson, and Katelynn Woodlee tragically lost their lives after an 18-wheeler collided with the team’s bus following a fall ball game in September, the entire softball world was shaken. A dozen other players, as well as the team’s head coach, were also injured in the crash.
That’s why some of the sport’s biggest names were honorary Lions on Saturday at this year’s annual NCTC Softball Alumni Day.
The Gainesville, Texas community college hosted Olympic medalists Jennie Finch, Danielle Lawrie, and Lauren Lappin, who served as guest coaches at Alumni Day, while Division I All-Americans Amanda Scarborough, Taylor Hoagland, and Lauren Chamberlain also attended the event.
Chamberlain, a current senior at the University of Oklahoma and arguably the sport’s most popular active star, was especially moved by the tragedy in September, and thus, aspired to help the NCTC team in any way she could.
“I immediately thought, what if that was my team,” the Sooner first baseman said. “It hit me hard.”
“This community has been an inspiration to the entire softball community across the country and we just hope that we can show any support that we can to the people here,” said Lappin, a Stanford standout from 2003-2006.
“This game is so much bigger than the wins, losses, and championships,” former Team USA-ace Jennie Finch disclosed. “It’s about the relationships and just showing support for the organization.”
Similarly, Danielle Lawrie, the 2009 and 2010 National Softball Player of the Year at the University of Washington, was happy to make the trip to Texas to honor the late athletes and provide support for the heartbroken community.
“It was no hesitation for me,” Lawrie said. “With the softball community, you feel really connected, you know, a special bond exists.”
This bond, shared between some of the sport’s greatest talents of all-time and junior college players alike, provided healing and unifying powers in the midst of great sadness this past weekend at NCTC.
“Everybody rallying around each other, it’s really inspiring,” said Amanda Scarborough, a two-time All-American at Texas A&M. “It’s not just inspiring to Texas. It’s not just inspiring to Dallas. It’s inspiring to the entire softball community across the country.”
Saturday’s Alumni Day included two exhibition games involving NCTC players from the past 15 years, a home run derby featuring the honorary Lions for a day, and a silent auction. All proceeds from the event went to the NCTC Angels in the Infield Scholarship Fund honoring Deckard, Pelton, Richardson, and Woodlee.