doctor martens boots Valdosta State inducts 2018 Hall of Fame class
VALDOSTA Sonja Harper had never played an inning of fast pitch softball when she was recruited to Valdosta State.
19 years after her final season as a Blazer, Harper was among the inductees at Valdosta State’s 22nd annual Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony brunch Saturday in the university’s union ballrom.
Following opening remarks by athletic director Herb Reinhard and university president Richard Carvajal, the inductees were presented plaques before taking turns at the podium to speak about the honor.
Harper was recruited for her defensive prowess at shortstop before fast pitch softball had reached south Georgia. When it was her turn to speak, she recalled the recruiting coach telling her “You don’t ever have to get a hit, but you can’t ever make an error.”
In 1995, a rocky transition saw Harper finish her freshman season two strikeouts shy of the team lead. In her senior campaign, Harper hit .409, finishing her career with a .325 average and 50 doubles, both VSU records at the time. In 1999, she became the first Blazer softball player to earn All American honors.
“I didn’t even know there was records,” Harper said. “I didn’t have a clue until they told me my senior year. I think I broke the doubles record, and they handed me a ball, and I was like, ‘What is this?’
“They were like, ‘You just broke the doubles record,’ and I was like, ‘Really? I was close?'”
Harper finished her career with nine home runs and 284 hits, making her one of the most prolific hitters in school history. Thus, it was appropriate Harper was inducted into the VSU Athletic Hall of Fame alongside one of the most prolific hitting teams in Blazer history the 2012 national championship team.
Marti Littlefield and Morgan Johnson were among the dynamic hitters on a team that a combined .336 with 116 doubles and 62 home runs en route to scoring 414 runs in 63 games, and Saturday they represented the team at the podium, where Littlefield compared the 2012 club to a machine.
“Not only does it take multiple gears and parts,” Littlefield said, then referencing the role head coach Thomas Macera played. “It takes a mechanic that knows how to operate.”
Macera has won 485 games since taking over at Valdosta State in 2006, and he said building a tight knit, family style team is crucial to success both on the diamond and in life afterwards.
“We do devotions weekly, we do a lot of team bonding stuff,” Macera said. “I’m a big family oriented coach, so when we’re on the road, the parents are there, they can stay with us. We do everything we can to make it a family oriented type of thing
“The off the field stuff matters more than on the field. If you’re not tight off the field, you cannot win on the field. It’s just not possible. We talk about that all the time, the team chemistry is more important than anything that you’ve got.”
At one point, the Blazers sat a strike away from being swept out of the Division II National Tournament, but they went on to reel off five consecutive victories to win the first national title in program history.
“To win a national championship, it takes a special year,
it takes special girls, it was just a magical year,” Macera said. “There’s no way you can replicate it. For a national championship team, so many things have to come into play: the university has to back you, your fans, your players have to buy in to what you’re doing, and things have to fall into place for you, and that year it did for us.”
Dennis Fike didn’t quite achieve the team success of some of the inductees, but with a career that began in 1962, Fike was integral in laying the framework for what Valdosta State Athletics has developed into.
A two sport athlete, Fike played basketball for the VSU Rebels, but he was at his best on the diamond, where he he became the first position player in school history to receive All Gulf South Conference honors.
Ken Ferrell’s connection to Valdosta State Athletics also spans more than 50 years, beginning with his support of the program while an employee of the university.
Since his days working at the university, Ferrell has provided immeasurable contributions and unwavering support to the Blazers’ program, the student athletes and the Valdosta community.
One inductee, Christian Hansen, couldn’t be at the ceremony in person after making an appearance with the rest of 2011 national championship tennis team at last year’s induction, but he showed how far Blazer Nation spans by sending a short video speech from Germany thanking the members of the athletic department and other supporters among the tennis community.
During his time as a Blazer, Hansen played a crucial role in the 2011 national championship with a 17 3 doubles record and a 9 2 mark in singles. Hansen followed the title up by being named the ITA National Player of the Year following a ITA National Doubles championship alongside Luis Loeffler in the fall of his senior year.
Valdosta State’s Athletic Hall of Fame ceremony also saw representation from Sweden in inductee Andreas Boberg, who shared a story of how he was mistakenly handcuffed within his first month in Valdosta when police showed up to the wrong house for a drug bust.
Boberg overcame the scare to lead the Blazers’ golf team with averages of 75.9 or better in each of his three seasons, resulting in All American recognition in 1998 and 1999.
For Ramon Allen, his induction into the hall of fame came as a pleasant surprise. He first learned of his invitation to the ceremony when a former teammate shared the news with him on Facebook and he thought it was a joke.
But the former GSC Freshman of the Year more than earned the recognition by rushing for 3,071 yards over a four year career beginning in 1988. His rushing total still ranks fourth in VSU history.
“When I received the word, I had an overwhelming response from the guys that played ball with me at Valdosta State, and congratulated me,” Allen said. “They were just really happy for me. It’s been a great experience.
“We’re having a little reception later on this evening. Going to reminisce and talk about the good ole days.”
Ivey Hubbard was also blindsided by his the news of his induction.
“I got a phone call, and the number, I didn’t recognize in my phone,” Hubbard said. “Usually, when I don’t recognize numbers in my phone, I don’t answer it, but I happen to be in the car with my wife. She said, ‘Well, give it to me. I’ll answer it.’