By Jamie Wachter
The Valdosta Daily Times
VALDOSTA — Her role was expected to be easy — just hit.
Instead, Karson King has had to adjust to an unexpected and much more difficult role as the Valdosta State softball team’s No. 1 cheerleader.
Bringing a big bat with her from Gordon State College, King figured to be part of the deep and talented Blazers lineup. And she was capably filling that slot each of the past two years. At least early. Then the injuries happened.
“It’s definitely been tough because obviously I wanted to finish a season for once,” King said. “I’m just trying to take over my new role on the team, and that part has been simple because yeah I went down, but I still want them to be successful.”
Added VSU coach Thomas Macera: “It hurts anytime, I mean she’s a .375 hitter that probably would have hit 15 home runs a year. She was on pace to do that both times she’s gotten hurt. It’s just unfortunate.”
Last season, King started the first 22 games and hit .377 with five home runs and 26 RBIs before suffering a season-ending knee injury at West Alabama.
This year, King was a constant in the VSU order for the first 29 games as she hit .329 with four home runs and 22 RBIs before again suffering a season-ending injury to the same knee at West Alabama.
“I just feel bad for Karson,” Macera said. “She’s a senior and goes down twice, two years in a row at West Alabama.”
While disappointed, King didn’t let the injury remove her from the close-knit Blazers’ dynamic. Rather, she did whatever she could to help keep VSU pointed forward.
“It’s never easy to get hurt and it was actually harder this time because I thought I’d gotten past that,” she said. “But things happen for a reason, and I’m trying to live with that part of it and just be here for them, because at this point that’s all I can do.”
Said Courtney Albritton: “She travels every trip and she’s a big help in the dugout, cheering for us. And she has our back just like she would on the field. But we have definitely missed her on the field.”
She has even turned into a helping hand — or eye — in the bullpen for the VSU pitching staff.
“She helps me and will stat for me and will help me,” senior Brianna Hancock said. “She still has an eye for the ball and she’ll tell me if a pitch is good or not.
“She plays her role on the team. They’re weird roles, they’re different. But she’s there and she’s encouraging and she loves us.”
It helped, too, that freshman Chelsea Canara settled into the second base spot and has hit .322 with five home runs and 40 RBIs, while fellow freshman Heather Robinson has bashed 10 home runs with 32 RBIs as the Blazers’ primary designated player.
“What’s fortunate for us is we’ve had kids come off the bench, step up and fill in and have played well also,” Macera said. “I would love to have her playing this weekend, but we have what we have. And what we have is what got us here and that’s what we’re focused on.”
Added King: “Everyone on the team is capable, so it hasn’t been hard to fill.
“I just try to be there for them, encourage them, let them know that I’m there for them. That they can do it and that I believe they can do it.”
That new role has led to two trips to the national tournament. And while she clearly would rather be on the field in Salem, Va., this weekend, King would still happily take a national championship.
“I want to win a national championship just as bad as they do, even though I’m on the bench,” she said.
By Jamie Wachter
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