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By David Sharp
Knox County High School hosted a community based fund raising event on Saturday, November 11, 2023 for two of their students with serious medical issues. Knox County graduate Lance McMahon along with 2023 Softball of America Pitcher of the Year Montana Fouts spoke to and posed for pictures with supporters from all over the area.
Knox County student Bryant Western has been battling a brain injury for nearly a year in the aftermath of an accident involving a UTV on the family farm. KC Elementary Student Ailjah Berry is suffering from cancer.
Berry has or is about to have a Bone Marrow transplant to battle the dread disease. Both the Berry and Western family provided updates on their son’s condition.
Lance McMahon is a Knox County native who pursued a career teaching and coaching softball pitching. McMahon played baseball and softball at Knox County. He was an assistant coach on Knox County’s 2012 Class 1 fourth place in the state softball team.
Lance’s sister Marcie (McMahon) Stansberry was the head coach of that championship team. His sister Katie (McMahon) Smith was an all state pitcher for the Lady Eagles. She went on to become a two time NAIA All- American, Hall of Fame softball pitcher for Columbia College. Marcie McMahon played four years of collegiate softball.
Lance McMahon was a three year student assistant for Coach Ehren Earlywine at the University of Missouri. After graduation from Mizzou, McMahon went on to be a three year graduate assistant pitching coach for LSU, earning a Masters Degree in Kinesiology.
McMahon worked six years as pitching coach for the University of Illinois, and currently as the pitching coach for the Alabama Crimson Tide of the SEC conference.
Montana Fouts was a member of NCAA Division I College Softball Women’s World Series teams at Alabama for three of her four years at the University. She is likely the most famous American college softball player of her era.
Fouts won the 2023 Honda Award for the NCAA Division I Pitcher of The Year. Alabama lost in the semifinals of the Women’s College World Series in her senior season.
A line of donors stretched from one end of the KCHS basketball court near the other taking pictures with McMahon and Fouts along with a College World Series Participant trophy and the Honda Award trophy last Saturday night.
Montana Fouts attended high school and played softball at East Carter in Graceland, Kentucky. “It feels like being back at home being here,” Montana Fouts told the Edina Sentinel. “I like the small town thing.”
Montana Fouts was in the area deer hunting. “It is a long story about the recruiting process,” Montana Fouts said. “I committed (to Alabama) when I was about 13. It was a long time ago.”
“I was extremely blessed with Alabama. I fell in love with the atmosphere in Tuscaloosa. They are really supportive, winning in all sports.”
Montana Fouts suffered an injury in the 2023 SEC Tournament that limited her availability in the College World Series. “You have to deal with adversity. It is like a roller coaster. You just have to put your faith in the person beside yourself.”
“There’s only eight teams that get to go to the Women’s College World Series. To be there was an extreme honor,” Montana Fouts said. “I’m really happy that I got to finish my career there.”
Montana Fouts played in the College Softball World Series three of the four years she was at Alabama. Fouts recently was on the USA National Softball Team that won the Pan Am Games.
Montana Fouts plans to go through the process of trying out for the USA Olympic Softball Team.
Coach Lance McMahon has had the opportunity to be on the coaching staff with at least two College softball legends at their respective Universities. Mizzou pitcher Chelsea Thomas is widely considered one of the most accomplished athletes to play at Missouri University.
Chelsea Thomas had a similar high school background, attending a small school in Iowa before becoming an All American for the Tigers. Thomas came to Knox County along with Lance McMahon and the Tiger softball team.
One of the most successful Mizzou Tiger softball teams dined at a local restaurant and had a picture taken on the Knox County Courthouse steps. Lance McMahon talked to the gathering about giving back to his community.
“I have been fortunate,” Lance McMahon told the Edina Sentinel. “A lot of the right place at the right time. Doors opening when I applied for different softball programs. I couldn’t ever do it alone.”
“People in my corner that I leaned on heavily. It was seriously just putting myself out there,” Lance McMahon said about working as a softball pitching coach in the Big 12, The SEC Conference and the Big 10 Conference.
“Building those relationships when I was much younger,” Lance McMahon said. “I knew my boss Coach (Patrick) Murphy for ten years. I can see the dividend for that. I’m just living out the lifelong dream for me.”
“They have a lot of similarities,” Lance McMahon said when asked about working with Chelsea Thomas and Montana Fouts during his college coaching career. “They never settled. They were always working to get better. Montana (Fouts) threw a perfect game at the World Series.”
“She could have said I was as good as I ever was going to be. That was never her mentality. Chelsea (Thomas) was the same way. Just bulldogs in her training. Obviously they were born with some God given talent.”
“They both just ran with that. They are both really humble women,” Lance McMahon said. “It’s been a pleasure to work with both of them. Both are just really blue collar. They never took anything for granted.”
“Both battled some pretty severe injuries in their career. I think that just made them better people in the end.”