Having grown up together as a pitcher and catcher, Kenna Ferguson and Jillian Whitmire share one of those special bonds that evolves through athletics.
“She’s like my sister,” Whitmire said. “If I had to share a day like this with anyone, it’d be her.”
There have been good times and bad times — typical of the dynamic between the two main focal points on the diamond — but beyond the field there has always been friendship between these two Sherman Lady Bearcats.
“We’ve been playing together since we were five years old,” Ferguson said. “We’ve had a very long journey together.”
After a final spring they will go their separate ways as Whitmire and Ferguson signed letters of intent to play softball at different colleges.
Whitmire chose North Central Texas College while Ferguson picked Independence Community College.
Whitmire has been a three-year starter for the Lady Bearcats and as a junior she led Sherman in several offensive categories, including batting average (.365), doubles (10), homers (2) and RBI (19) and tied for second in runs with 12 on the way to being a first-team all-district selection behind the plate.
“When I first starting catching it wasn’t something I wanted to do. My home was third base,” Whitmire said. “I got to learn the whole position and I’m more comfortable with it.”
As a sophomore she was second on the team with a .350 average and finished with nine doubles, two homers and 11 RBI.
Whitmire hit .286 with six doubles, a triple, a home run and nine RBI during her freshman season.
Ferguson has also been on the varsity for the entirety of her high school career and served in a utility role with appearances at first base, designated player and pitcher. It’s a role that could remain the same in college.
“If she tells me to go put on the catching gear, I’ll go put it on,” Ferguson said.
This past spring she hit .195 with two doubles and two RBI and went 2-1 with a 4.07 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 22.1 innings.
She was a starter at first base as a sophomore and hit .274 with two doubles and 16 RBI and chipped in with some appearances in the circle.
As a freshman, she appeared in half of the games and hit .324 with three RBI and scored eight times.
They helped the Lady Bearcats to playoff appearances in their first two seasons — both ending with series losses in the bi-district round — before missing out on the postseason by a game last year.
“It would be awesome to go to the playoffs our last year and then continue our journey in softball afterward,” Ferguson said.
Added Whitmire: “We’ve got our goals really high to be leaders on this team. This is our time to shine. Our expectations are high and we want to bring that back, leave a legacy.”
NCTC went 46-17 this past season and 22-10 in North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference play. The Lady Lions fell just short of reaching the Junior College World Series with a 7-6 loss in the Region V title game against defending champ Temple.
Last year’s roster included Howe’s Peyton Streetman and Madisyn Hargrove and S&S’ Jada Muller.
In 2017, NCTC won the Region V Tournament to reach the World Series, the program’s third trip in nine seasons.
“I sent out a lot of emails to get as much exposure as a I could,” Whitmire said. “I went on a visit and it was pretty short and sweet — clicked from the start and was a match. It’s such a good program. I was looking for that, the level of competition and the drive they have.”
Independence Community College, which is located in Independence, Kan., went 15-24 this past season — an improvement of 15 wins under a new coaching staff — and was 9-17 in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference to finish fourth in its division.
“I had about 10 schools looking at me and this one wasn’t one of them. I was visiting another school and on the way back I got a phone call from the coach and said they were interested and it went from there,” Ferguson said. “I knew it was home and where I wanted to be.”