James signs with Cumberland University

Thursday, February 4, 2010
Former Forrest High School softball player Heather James signed scholarship papers last Thursday morning to play softball at Cumberland University beginning with the 2011 season. Joining James at the signing ceremony were (standing, left to right) Elite Diamonds team coordinator Sandra Bond, Cumberland head coach Heather Stanfill, Cumberland Athletic Director Ron Pavan, Forrest High School head coach Becky Cheatham, Cumberland graduate assistant coach Christie McCrum, Elite Diamonds head coach Rodney Gooch, and James' father Daniel (seated). Photo submitted

With more than three weeks still remaining before the beginning of the 2010 slate, Cumberland University softball coach Heather Stanfill has signed her first recruit for the 2011 squad as former Forrest standout Heather James inked scholarship papers last week on the Cumberland University campus in Lebanon.

James prepped at Forrest High School under coach Becky Cheatham, earning All-District honors five times at the shortstop position.

"We are very pleased Heather was able to sign with Cumberland University," said Cheatham.

"We are so excited that Heather will be able to continue her education and her softball career. She will be an instant asset to their program."

James was All-District twice at Culleoka High School before transferring to Forrest in 2007 when Culleoka disbanded their softball program and she was also voted the All-District 9A shortstop all three seasons as a Lady Rocket.

Cheatham talked about the importance of James transferring in for the 2007 season, saying, "I just can't put it into words what Heather meant to us. She just had an amazing ability to step right into a position that calls for one of your better athletes at shortstop. Heather had the strongest arm I have ever seen."

James helped lead the Lady Rockets to the 2008 Class A state championship and a pair of runner-up finishes in 2007 and 2009.

Heather James rips a two-out single, starting the 8th inning rally for the Lady Rockets in the 2009 Region 5A semifinal won by the Lady Rockets 5-4 at Houston County. Tribune file Photo by Anthony S. Puca

Known as a great defensive shortstop with a cannon arm, James was also a clutch hitter in pressure situations and drove home the game winning run on a two-run single in the bottom of the seventh inning in the state title clinching game versus Trinity Christian in 2008.

Cheatham said about the game winning hit, "That was a tough situation for anyone to be. It was a 3-2 count with two outs with everything on the line. It was do or die and she just kept battling until she got the hit."

As a senior, James batted .430 with three home runs and 42 RBIs for the division and region champions, while she had a .353 average, four long balls and 50 RBIs the previous year.

In her sophomore season in 2007 James belted a grand slam home run in her first state tournament game versus Adamsville.

"I can still remember that homerun said," said Cheatham. "It was a night game and it was just a towering home run that put the dagger into a game that was still in question."

In her three years wearing a Forrest uniform, James and the Lady Rockets compiled an overall record of 93-26 and an amazing 36-0 mark in district play.

"Heather is going to be tough to replace," said Cheatham. "Just her quiet leadership and the way she led by her actions on and off the field. There was never any drama with Heather."

James is currently attending Columbia State Community College, but is not playing softball.

She will have four years of eligibility at Cumberland.

James is the daughter of Dan James and also played summer ball for the Elite Diamonds based in Mt. Juliet.

Cheatham talked about the signings of James, Rachel Curtis, and Shelby Stinnett this off-season and what it means to the Forrest program.

"It just speaks well of what our expectations are of our players here at Forrest," said Cheatham. "Academics always come first and all of our players are expected to do what is right on the field, in the classroom, and in our community."