If you’re going to dream, dream big. Erin Hollis is a 16-year-old sophomore at Warren County High School and a member of the Lady Pioneer fast-pitch softball team.
She eats, sleeps, and breathes softball and after last year’s Lady Pioneer softball season had ended, Hollis hopped a flight across the pond along with mom Melissa Hollis and grandmother Betty Moore.
The strong-armed, right-handed pitcher was on her way to Arezzo, Italy for a week-long, fast-pitch softball tournament. Hollis received an invitation in April prior to the end of the school year to join a group of athletes from around the country for the tournament overseas. Along with her teammates, Hollis competed with some talented young players from around the world.
Two teams from the United States made the trip. Hollis was the youngest player to compete and was only one of four high school players from the U.S. to make the journey overseas. The players who made up the remainder of the two teams were collegiate athletes.
Ove the course of the five-day tournament Hollis competed in all seven games in some capacity. She pitched two complete games and half of a third game. Her USA-2 team made it all the way to the championship game but was defeated by the other team from the United States, USA-1.
During the tournament, Hollis and her teammates battled against a tough fast-pitch team from Holland. After the USA-2 win, Holland wanted to exchange jerseys as a sign of good sportsmanship, something Hollis said she would never forget.
While the two teams and their families were away from the softball diamond they enjoyed the sights. All of the players and families tried to see and do as much as time allowed. Hollis said one of her favorite things about Italy was the gelato, and Italian ice cream dessert.
She also talked about a great new friend she made while on her trip. Jessie Kerby from Nevada took to Hollis and it was like the two had known each other all their lives. They became fast friends and keep in touch now by Facebook and text message.
The road to where Hollis is now in her life has not been easy. After a stellar eighth-grade season at Warren County Middle School under former head coach Gooby Martin, Hollis helped lead the Lady Pioneers and WCMS finished first in the season and then won the tournament championship. She pitched 71 innings over 14 games and collected 57 strikeouts in her final season at WCMS.
Between her eighth and ninth grade year, Hollis tried out for the Lady Pioneer high school team. She practiced and traveled extensively over the course of the summer. It was during that summer she became depressed and she endured enough harassment she decided it was time for a break and stepped away from softball.
After her freshman year had past, family friend Ryan Tackett contacted her dad, Nick Hollis, and invited the Hollis family to tag along with his daughter, Neva Tackett, and Lady Pioneer Skylar Youngblood to a UT Lady Volunteer fast-pitch softball game. It was a UT versus Florida game and the Hollis family accepted the invitation. The trip to Knoxville worked and it re-ignited Erin’s fire that had been extinguished.
Right before Hollis returned to the Lady Pioneers, current head coach David Upton retired from the softball program and she was reunited with former middle school coach Martin. She started over with her work out regiment and by the fall Hollis was ready to return to the diamond.
As a sophomore, Hollis pitched 103 innings and threw 80 strikeouts. She told the Southern Standard her performance against the Siegel Stars was the highlight of her season. Hollis pitched the entire game and the only run scored was a walk-off home run by Siegel to end the game.
“It was my best game,” said Hollis.
She didn’t always pitch. Hollis started as a catcher and the chance came up after a teammate was injured and the coach told Hollis to get in there and show them how to pitch. She stepped inside the circle and the rest is history. She made it very clear to everyone she was not interested in pitching but quickly fell in love with the position and by the end of her first year Hollis made the all-star team.
Hollis reported in the beginning her dad bought enough balls to fill a bucket and she threw 100 pitches in the morning and another 100 pitches at night. Now she attends pitching lessons in Chattanooga at Sale Creek High School. The lessons are taught by Beth Keylon and Steven Jaeks.
When asked about what the future holds, her answer was simple. “A regional title and a trip to the state.”