Hines Furniture Athlete of the Week: Laurence Manning's Wellborn called up from JV to shine on the playoff stage


The Laurence Manning softball team entered the SCISA 3A playoffs in a tough spot.

The Lady Swampcats were down three players due to injury and were stretched a bit thin. Head coach Buddy Truett decided to look to the JV team to find some support. One of those players was Lily Wellborn.

Wellborn stepped in for senior shortstop Malorie Spiegel and thrived in her new role. The eighth grader helped the Lady Saints go 3-0 in the first two days of the state playoffs, earning a spot in this week's championship series. Her performance also helped her earn the Hines Furniture Athlete of the Week.

"It's really shocking, but it feels really good," Wellborn said of the recognition. "I didn't expect it."

When Laurence Manning started to lose players to injury, the last thing Wellborn expected was getting the call to join the team in the playoffs. After the Lady Swampcats played their final two regular season games, that call came on Tuesday night.

"When I first heard (Spiegel) was hurt, I really didn't believe it. I had a few players come up to me and say, 'They're definitely going to pull you up.' And I said no way," Wellborn said. "My JV coach told me I was being pulled up to varsity and I was just like, 'Woah.'"

Not only did Wellborn get brought up to varsity, she was immediately thrown into the starting lineup. Wellborn was taken aback when she was told she was starting their playoff opener against Augusta Christian at shortstop.

"I had no idea," Wellborn said. "I was so nervous, even if I was going to sit, and then they came to me and said I was starting."

Truett saw what Wellborn was able to do at the JV level and he was confident she'd be able to step into the lineup and succeed.

"She's a tremendous athlete, no doubt. It was big for her to fill the spot when we went down with injuries," Truett said. "We watched her the whole time on JV and she did well. We knew she would fit in well with us. The only part we were worried about was her handling the speed of varsity pitching, but she handled that well and kept her composure.

"I'm proud of her. The future is very bright for her."

Laurence Manning had to battle their way through the playoffs. LMA won its first game against Augusta Christian 13-9 and watched pitcher Kayleigh Parmenter Avins take a ball to the knee. Luckily, she was able to return in their second game against Ben Lippen, but the injuries kept coming. The Lady 'Cats then lost Lyza Pricklemeyer to an arm injury as the centerfielder flew over the wall to steal a home run in the 11-4 win. Lindsey Barwick then hurt her leg stretching for the final out at first.

After all of that, LMA trailed Augusta Christian 8-0 in their rematch on Saturday, only to score 11 unanswered runs to clinch a spot in the championship series. A wild ride for Wellborn's first week as a varsity starter.

"I was kind of freaking out. We can't lose another player, what are we going to do? I think everyone was really nervous about everything. I was just trying to be careful with everything that I did, I think everyone was at that point," Wellborn said. "I think Anna Marie Beard helped us through a lot of it (on Saturday. She was like, 'If you don't want to be here, you need to say something.' She was just helping us stir everything.

"We were all worried and down and you could tell by the way we were playing. It was like we'd lost the championship game right there. Marlee Black went up to bat and it just got going. Then (Madison) Rainwater got on base, I got on base and it was just boom, boom, boom and it all started clicking for us."

Wellborn immediately got a feel for varsity softball, especially at the plate. She went 5-11 at the plate over the first two days of the playoffs, driving in five runs and scoring six more. While Wellborn hadn't played varsity before, she'd seen varsity level pitching in travel ball. That helped her make a quick transition, where she eventually earned a spot in the heart of the LMA lineup.

"I've seen fast pitching with travel ball, but I haven't seen that kind of pitching in a while. It was just a timing thing," Wellborn said. "I just went up there with no worries, I just wanted to hit the ball and that's what I did."

Laurence Manning was eventually swept by Wilson Hall in the state championship series this week but earning a trip to state as an eighth grader meant the world to Wellborn. She hopes the series berth will plant the seeds for an even better season next spring.

"I didn't expect us to go that far and I don't think a lot of other people did. We were all so excited, we felt like we were on cloud nine. We were just happy to make it that far," Wellborn said. "It's going to make us want it more than ever. We're going to try to make a great comeback next season."