High school softball: Simpson is one of a kind, heading to Emory & Henry

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 5, 2023

By Mike London

MOUNT ULLA — Well-rounded West Rowan senior Karsen Simpson has signed with Emory & Henry’s softball program.

That’s an exciting achievement for a third baseman who already has lived an eventful life.

She has overcome scoliosis.

She was recognized last spring by the NCHSAA as a Heart of a Champion winner for prevailing over that spinal condition in what was, at times, a painful fight.

“Scoliosis didn’t stop me and it doesn’t bother me now,” Simpson said. “It’s not a problem. It helped make me who I am.”

Simpson is also a competitive angler, which is a bit unusual for a female. Some of the big ones didn’t get away from her. She has pictures of fish almost as long as she is tall to prove it.

Simpson has been hyper-active at West in activities such as volleyball, student council, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and National Honor Society, and she is the president of West Rowan’s chapter of the Future Farmers of America. She’s deeply involved in FFA, puts a lot of her time into it. A successful FFA show is at least as much fun for Simpson as making the tough plays at the hot corner for the Falcons.

“FFA has been incredibly important to me as far as becoming a leader and a communicator,” Simpson said.

West head coach Jimmy Greene smiles about the close relationship the Falcon’s softball program always has had with West FFA.  Simpson is just continuing that tradition.

Simpson has been part of the Post’s sports pages for a while.

She got started in softball when she was 7 or 8 and became good enough to play for the 2017 and 2018 Rowan Little League softball teams that got some attention. She pitched a lot in those days and was a key player on a World Series runner-up team.

Her high school career got off to a slow start.  What would have been her freshman season at West was the spring that COVID hit hard and ended softball shortly after it started.

As a sophomore in 2021, West played about half of a normal season. Simpson averaged about one at-bat per game and scored a lot of runs as a courtesy runner.

Simpson got to play regularly for a full season for the Falcons for the first time as a junior. West needed a third baseman, so Simpson, whose background was mostly as a pitcher, catcher and middle infielder, made herself into a third baseman.

“She’s probably played every position on the field at some point in her life,” Greene said. “I consider her the ultimate teammate, and I know she would play anywhere we needed her. She found a home at third base last season, but if we needed her to switch and play somewhere different tomorrow in order to help the team, she’d gladly do it.”

As a junior, Simpson contributed with her bat on a team that had marquee players such as Division I commits Emma Clarke and Brooke Kennerly. Simpson batted .286 with 15 RBIs and showed some pop with five doubles, two triples and a home run. Defensively, she was better than Greene had hoped for.

“Karsen became a rock for us at the corner,” Greene said. “She killed it over there.”

Simpson plays summer travel ball. That’s where Emory & Henry coaches spotted her.

“We  played a lot of showcase events in front of Division II and Division III coaches,” Simpson said. “One of the Emory & Henry assistants saw me and they started recruiting me.”

Simpson gave Emory & Henry, which moved up from Division III to the Division II South Atlantic Conference last summer a verbal commitment in October and had an official signing day in February.

Emory & Henry is a highly respected academic school in southwestern Virginia. It’s the school where West tennis star Payton Holt went a few years ago, and Holt had a positive experience there.

“Karsen told me early in the recruiting process that all she was concerned about was finding the right fit for college,” Greene said. “She didn’t care what division the school was or what their record was. All that mattered was finding a school that felt right and a softball program that felt right. She had a mature mindset about the whole process.”

Simpson plans a major in the biology and exercise science field.

Simpson’s senior softball season has begun, and it appears that the Falcons will have another very strong team. They won their opener against a stout Mooresville squad.

“I can’t really say that I have a memory of one favorite game or one favorite at-bat from my time with West Rowan softball,” Simpson said. “Really, it’s just been all of it. I’ve had a chance to experience some great moments with my teammates.”

That’s the sort of team-oriented answer that doesn’t surprise Greene at all.

“Karsen is one of a kind,” Greene said. “She’s going to do great in college and she’s going to be awesome in life.”