State Gazette Softball Defensive Player of the Year: Dyer County Lady Choctaw Maddie Claire Wilkerson

Monday, July 8, 2024
Dyer County Lady Choctaw Maddie Claire Wilkerson


As one of the key pieces to the Lady Choctaw defensive game both in the circle and in right field, Dyer County Lady Choctaw senior Maddie Claire Wilkerson stepped up into a leadership role to help return the orange and white to the TSSAA Class AAA State Tournament on the way to being named the State Gazette Softball Defensive Player of the Year for the 2023-24 school year.

Dyer County Head Coach Shanna O’Bright said Wilkerson, a four-year starter, began to step into a leadership role at the start of the season.

“Early on, we talked about some needs that we needed like pitching being one of those,” O’Bright recalled. “I put her back on the mound because if you look back at her career she really hasn’t pitched much in her high school career.

“She’s been in right field and, pretty much, dominated right field for four straight years.”

Sometimes a player can step up as a senior out of necessity. And, while that was partly the case for Wilkerson, O’Bright stressed Wilkerson wanted to step up.

“She wanted to put the team on her shoulders and see where we could go,” the Lady Choctaw head coach said. “And, I am very, very thankful for that – just stepping up into a leadership role.”

In the circle, Wilkerson anchored the Lady Choctaw pitching staff, going 13-5 with two saves during 36 appearances. The Dyer County senior threw 144.2 innings this season for the Lady Choctaws, striking out 85 batters along the way. Wilkerson sported an ERA of 2.032 while holding opponents to a .206 batting average.

While in right field and in the circle, Wilkerson had a fielding percentage of .943.

Being the person to lead the way from the circle was a process, as O’Bright explained.

“By the time we got to the second half of the season, she wanted the ball,” Dyer County’s head coach recalled. “‘I want the ball!’ And the girls played behind her.

“Her and Rylee (Key) were a good duo together because they kind of offset each other in the pitches that they throw.”

O’Bright was quick to point out Wilkerson also had a good senior season at the plate as well. The senior batted .252 from the No. 2 hole with 10 doubles, a triple and a home run while driving in 22.

“She was very consistent and came up with some big hits in key moments,” O’Bright added. “With a leadoff that gets on as much as ours does, you’re asked to put down a lot of bunts to sacrifice your at bat for the best of your team. She was very good at that, too.”

But, it was her leadership which not only stuck out but was also the area where she improved the most. O’Bright was happy to see her senior take that role.

“She wanted her senior season to be a good one,” O’Bright said. “She did a good job of supporting her teammates and encouraging them along the way.”

Wilkerson was also named to the Tennessee Softball Coaches Association Class AAA All-State Team for her efforts during the 2024 season, which saw her help take the Lady Choctaws to the state semifinals for the first time in the program’s history.

“That’s a big award and I am very proud of her,” O’Bright explained. “She is very deserving.”

O’Bright said Wilkerson has meant a lot to the Lady Choctaw program after being a starter on three state tournament teams in four years.

“She’s been a real consistent force in the outfield and pretty consistent at the plate,” the Lady Choctaw head coach said. “This year we added the element of pitching.

“I can’t say enough. She’s had a great career here at Dyer County High School. She’s a fantastic human being.”

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