Former Northeast Tigers Knepp, Whitten sign at Blue Mountain

Former Northeast Mississippi Community College softball players Haley Knepp (left) and Nicki Whitten (right) sign to play their senior seasons at Blue Mountain College under coach Kevin Barefield (center). (PHOTO COURTESY: Danny McKenzie/BMC)

Former Northeast Mississippi Community College softball players Haley Knepp (left) and Nicki Whitten (right) sign to play their senior seasons at Blue Mountain College under coach Kevin Barefield (center). (PHOTO COURTESY: Danny McKenzie/BMC)

Blake Long/Northeast Mississippi Community College

Blue Mountain, Miss. – Haley Knepp and Nicki Whitten, a pair of standout softball players at Northeast Mississippi Community College, have signed to play with Blue Mountain College after a year at the University of North Alabama.

“Haley and Nicki will be a big help to us going into the Southern States Conference,” BMC coach Kevin Barefield said of Knepp and Whitten, both of whom decided to transfer after a coaching change at UNA. “We are fortunate that they wanted to finish out their careers at BMC.”

The Toppers had their best season in the short three-year history of the program in 2013 and finished 25-20-1.

“It’s great to see them continue their career,” said Northeast coach Jody Long. “I think making a change to Blue Mountain will not only help them athletically, but academically and socially as well.”

The duo led North Alabama to a 40-20 overall record, a 21-13 showing in Gulf South Conference play and an appearance in the NCAA South Regional in Huntsville, Ala., in 2013.

Whitten hit .311 and started all 60 games at UNA, with 11 doubles, a triple and five home runs. She drove in 36 runs, scored 33 times, and had 80 total bases.

With 23 walks on the season, Whitten was second on the team and only grounded into one double play all year. She led the Lady Lions in sacrifice bunts (5) and had a .938 fielding percentage for UNA committing just nine miscues in 145 chances with the Lady Lions.

The speedy Knepp played mostly as a pinch runner at North Alabama, scoring 24 runs in 43 games.

During their sophomore year in Booneville, Knepp and Whitten helped the Lady Tiger softball team bring the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) state runner-up trophy back to Booneville.

Under the guidance of Long, Northeast finished the season with a 32-19 record and posted a school-record for North Division wins with 17 to finish the regular season in third place.

Knepp, Whitten and the rest of the Lady Tigers made the most of their postseason appearances and finished third in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Region XXIII Tournament after their run to the MACJC State Tournament championship game.

Whitten, the Lady Tigers team captain, appeared in 26 games during the 2011-12 season and hit .322 with 28 hits in 87 at bats.

During her time at the plate, Whitten connected for five doubles, three triples and four home runs en route to driving in 24 runs and scoring 25 more.

Whitten had a .422 on base percentage after collecting 16 walks, five hit by pitches and eight sacrifices during the 2011-12 season.

In the field, she posted a .920 fielding percentage with 188 chances on the year.

The Booneville native was named to the All North Division and All-State teams by the MACJC.

Knepp, an outfielder from Kossuth, appeared in 49 games for the Lady Tigers during her sophomore year and was perfect on the base paths (2-for-2).

At the plate, Knepp collected 37 hits in 110 at bats with five doubles and four triples while driving in 23 runs and scoring 39. She hit .336 during the 2011-12 season for the Lady Tigers.

Knepp had a .407 on base percentage during her sophomore year at Northeast after garnering 15 walks, three hit by pitches and seven sacrifices on the year.

Knepp recorded a .960 fielding percentage after committing just two errors in 50 chances all year.

At the culmination of their sophomore seasons in Booneville, the National Fast-Pitch Coaches Association (NFCA) named both Knepp and Whitten All-America Scholar Athletes.

Knepp and Whitten were also two of seven members of the Northeast softball team that received NJCAA Student-Athlete Academic Awards that year.

Northeast’s softball team as a whole was honored by the NJCAA for its academic work when the Lady Tigers were ranked as the thirteenth best team in the nation with a 3.42 overall grade point average (GPA) on a 4.0 scale.