BY: Scott Procter | BVM Sports
PHILADELPHIA, Miss. (BVM) – Tenly Grisham first stepped into the batter’s box for one of the most accomplished high school softball programs in the country as a seventh grader. There was some initial fear as she looked across the infield at the pitcher’s mound to see athletes four or five years older than her, but Grisham believes it was one of the best things to ever happen to her.
“It was nerve-wracking for sure,” Grisham said of leading off for Neshoba Central High School in the seventh grade. “I was coming in a seventh grader and I didn’t know what to expect. I was kind of thrown into the fire with going in as the leadoff (hitter) but I knew I had eight other players behind me that would help me out so I knew as long as I tried to do my part as best as I could, they had my back.
“My coach giving me that opportunity was the best thing I could’ve asked for.”
The decision to throw Grisham directly into the fire has resulted in nothing but success for Mississippi’s most dominant softball program.
After a 31-3 record this past season, Grisham helped lead the Rockets to their ninth-straight MHSAA Class 5A state title. Grisham has been Nashoba Central’s leadoff hitter for the last six years and has five championship rings to show for it. The only year without a championship came in 2020 when the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Rockets have gone an eye-popping 96-5 over the last three seasons and although Grisham is a major reason why, the opportunity she’s been afforded throughout her prep career is not lost on her.
“It’s been amazing,” Grisham said of the Rockets’ dynasty. “Not everyone has the opportunity to play for such an outstanding high school program and I thank God everyday for blessing me with that opportunity. Just playing with them shows how much I love softball.
“Every player, whether they’re the nine-hole batter or the leadoff, cheers from the side like they love the game so much and want to win and I could not thank them enough for having my back.”
Perhaps the only thing more impressive than Neshoba’s 8-1 record in the playoffs this season and dominant sweep of East Central (7-0, 14-4) in the state finals is what Grisham accomplished during her senior campaign.
The 5-foot-4 senior batted .531 with 23 RBIs, 55 runs scored and 45 stolen bases. She was walked 15 times and struck out just once all season in 111 plate appearances. The elite play led to Grisham becoming just the third Gatorade Mississippi Softball Player of the Year to be chosen from Neshoba Central.
“I was very shocked because there are several talented players in Mississippi, especially in softball,” Grisham said of the Gatorade honor. “Being named Gatorade Player of the Year, I’m speechless about it and I didn’t know how to react when my mom told me. I’m honored.”
Neshoba Central swept New Hope (9-0, 7-1) to punch its ticket to the MHSAA State Championship Series, and the Trojans’ head coach knows just how important the Rockets’ leadoff hitter was to their success in every facet of the game.
“Tenly is a triple-threat on offense,” New Hope head coach Casey Finch said in a Gatorade press release. “She can slap for power, place the short ball and her speed and knowledge on the basepaths is incredible. She’s also an exceptional defensive player.”
Ranked as the nation’s No. 42 recruit (No. 28 among infielders) in the Class of 2022 by Extra Inning Softball, Grisham is on the doorstep of a dream she’s had since a child: playing collegiate softball.
The Gatorade Mississippi Softball POY will stay close to home and headline the Ole Miss Rebels’ No. 3-ranked recruiting class. Much like being thrown into the fire as a seventh-grade leadoff hitter for a state championship-caliber squad, Grisham feels like she has an opportunity in Oxford that she can’t pass up.
“They gave me a really big opportunity to come play for them and they were so welcoming and loving,” Grisham said of Ole Miss softball. “They knew me, I wasn’t just another number, I was a player and person to them. They made Oxford feel like home.”
Grisham is a member of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, the only federally recognized American Indian tribe living within the state of Mississippi. As one of the United States’ original first nations, the tribe is more than 11,000 members strong and Grisham hopes to be an inspiration to her community.
The future Rebel will certainly work to elevate her status within the softball world, but more important than that is showing other young ladies like her what hard work can do.
“I want to prove that any Choctaw little girl that plays softball can do it; they can make it to the big stage,” Grisham said. “I just want to make a name for myself but as well as my tribe and let them know like, “she grew up playing on the rec ball fields and she made it there.’ I just want them to know that they can make it. That’s the main thing.”