KARNS CITY, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Zoe King has had to overcome a great deal on the softball field.
Off of it, too.
It has not been a typical high school career for a King, a senior middle infielder and outfielder for the Karns City softball team. It hasn’t been a typical few years for anyone, really.
But for King, her trials have come from multiple directions.
King has watched her mother and sister come home from the front lines of the COVID-19 battle while they work in the medical field.
“It was pretty hard because my sister worked in Butler hospital for a while and she also has two kids,” King said. “It was hard on her and hard on me because I would always try to be there for her. Having two kids, she was always so scared. We all were. What if something were to happen.”
King’s mother works in a doctor’s office.
Watching them has inspired King to become a nurse.
“Last year I was pretty torn about what I wanted to do,” King said. “I wanted to go into criminology, but after seeing everything happening, I realized the medical field is what I wanted to do.”
She will pursue that degree at Penn State New Kensington. While there she will also continue her softball career.
A perfect fit.
“I went for a visit in the beginning of November and I just enjoyed how small the campus was,” King said. “I met with the coaches and I just thought this is where I wanted to be.”
King put herself in position to be recruited despite battling her own health issues.
King lost her sophomore season to the pandemic. During that time, she also began experiencing a serious elbow issue that required surgery last December to reattach a tendon and relieve a pinching on her ulnar nerve.
It was just short of Tommy John surgery.
All King did last spring after the surgery was hit .409 and lead the Gremlins in runs scored with 22.
“My first official day back was the first game of the season,” King said. “Going through that at a young age showed I needed to work hard to get back to where I was when I left playing. It strengthened my work ethic the most seeing my teammates work so hard, and I had to fight to get my starting job back. But after overcoming that, I had one of my best seasons yet.”
King admits she still has pangs of pain in that elbow, but nothing she can’t manage. She also realizes how lucky she was that she didn’t need Tommy John surgery — the complete reconstruction of her elbow which would have ended her high school career after just one season.
“Luckily the damage to my UCL was minor and it healed itself while I was recovering from surgery,” King said.
She also has a rotator cuff issue in her throwing arm.
“I constantly do stretches and exercise to make sure I don’t do more damage,” King said.
Despite her arm woes, King has become a star at the top of the deep Karns City lineup, blending her speed and her contact hitting to get on base at an extraordinary rate. Her on-base percentage last season was .509.
“She’s softball savvy,” said Karns City coach Mike Stitt. “She knows the game.”
While some players shy away from batting leadoff, not King. She craves it.
“There’s very few people who want to lead off — nobody likes to lead off,” Stitt said. “They don’t want to be the first one. They want to see what the pitcher is doing. They want to read the pitcher. I put her in that spot and she relishes it. It doesn’t matter to her. She’s not afraid to go first.”
King is a softball junkie. She also plays for the Pittsburgh Power travel team.
“It’s really given me a better work ethic,” King said. “I like pushing myself.”
King is excited to see what Karns City can do this spring with a slew of talented seniors and a lineup that can pile up the runs.
“We’re hoping to win District 9,” King said. “We struggled in the past winning it, so I think the main goal for the high school season is to finally get that D9 title and then move on to states and see how far we can make it there.”
King is one of several Karns City players who will play college softball.
“It’s pretty special,” King said. “The group of seniors in my class, we’ve all played together since we were 9 years old, so we have that really good connection. We’ve always been there for each other. It’s amazing to be able to see them move on to college as well. They’ve worked hard for it.”