Hardin Valley baseball coaches file lawsuit against mother who prompted investigation

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Plaintiffs Joe Michalski and Zach Luther, the head and assistant baseball coaches at Hardin Valley Academy, filed a lawsuit Wednesday against a mother who previously filed a complaint that launched an investigation into the coaches' conduct in March of this year.

Sheri Super, named as the defendant in the lawsuit, is the parent of a high school student athlete who was a member of the baseball team at Hardin Valley Academy when the incident occurred.

The lawsuit alleges that as part of standard practice, the coach and assistant coach practiced various drills for students including throwing soft pitches with a special "training" ball that was lightweight and soft. The balls would be randomly thrown at players' hips in order to teach them muscle memory to avoid potential injuries in an actual game. According to the lawsuit, real baseballs were never used in the drill.

The lawsuit alleges that Super approached a player and asked how he had received a specific bruise on his back. The player advised that he had received it by being hit with an actual baseball during a scrimmage game. Super allegedly took pictures of the player's back without permission from his parents and used them when she submitted a letter to the Hardin Valley administration.

The letter, obtained by Local 8 News, alleges "a continuing pattern of abusive behavior within the HVA Baseball program," saying the coaches had "intentionally put a child in harm's way" and had inflicted abuse that was apparently emotional and physical.

Local 8 News reported in March that an investigation was launched into the incident Super had reported. However, on March 28, a representative from Knox County Schools said the DCS investigation resulted in no findings. The coaches were reinstated to their positions after they had been suspended.

In March, an anonymous player reached out to Local 8 News, saying, "The balls were fake and squishy and not thrown hard. It wasn't bad at all."

The lawsuit alleges that Super's comments to the school's administration, as well as to the Knox County Sheriff's Department, resulted in both plaintiffs being "subjected to needless humiliation and embarrassment."

In the lawsuit filed August 2, Michalski and Luther filed claims against Super for defamation; false light; outrageous conduct; intentional interference with economic advantage; compensatory damages and punitive damages.

The lawsuit asked that both plaintiffs be awarded not more than $3 million each, with no more than $1 million in compensatory damages, and no more than $2 million in punitive damages.