COVINGTON - Georgia Perimeter College realized it was welcoming a capable softball hitter when Tiffany Phillips arrived on campus last fall.
But one of the nation's best?
"I knew Phillips was going to be good, but I never expected this," head coach Ed Schutte said of his freshman shortstop.
He projected a batting average of .350. Phillips has nearly doubled the pleasure, hitting .650 through 23 games, 17 of them Lady Jaguars' wins.
She ranks second in statistics compiled by the National Junior College Athletic Association behind Erin Dyok of Galveston College, at .800 with only 20 at-bats. Phillips has 60.
"Two-for-four is a weak game for her," Schutte said.
Phillips can hit for power but prefers the "slap" approach, directing the ball to vacant areas in the defense. The coach is fine with that because heavy hitters follow her in the lineup. Batting from the left side, she has a shorter journey than most to first base.
A graduate of Eagle's Landing High in McDonough, Phillips also competed with the prestigious Atlanta Vipers. Her main position through high school and club softball was second base - she was named defensive Most Valuable Player at Eagle's Landing last season - but Schutte installed her at shortstop to fill a void.
She has struggled at times in the field because of limited range ill-suited for the position. All of which makes her exploits with the bat more impressive, given how she is adjusting to an unfamiliar role with the glove.
"I call her a power slapper," said Schutte, who estimated that 70 percent of Phillips' hits reach the outfield. "She has the ability to put it through the defense, wherever they are. She reads the defense so well."
And when the infield is laying back, Phillips can drop a bunt with the best of them.
"She's just amazing to watch," Schutte said.
Phillips was never better than at the Wallace-Hanceville (Ala.) Classic, loaded with nationally ranked teams. In the Lady Jaguars' two wins, Phillips went 7-for-8.
"Attitude-wise, she's a great kid," Schutte said. "She's a team player. A 'yes-sir, no-sir' type. And she works her tail off at practice."
Phillips' exploits have caught the attention of four-year programs. Schutte said he has fielded many phone calls from coaches eager to learn more about the freshman phenom.
She likely will have scholarship offers awaiting her after this season. But Schutte expects Phillips back for an encore in 2010.
"She told me, 'I just love it here,' " he said.
The Lady Jaguars love having her.