By Darrell Metcalf
North Buncombe High – Multi-sport athlete Karlyn Pickens is making an impression on both local and national stages. Recently she was recognized in western North Carolina. On June 1st the Mountain Amateur Athletic Club recognized finalists in 24 categories that represent the best athletes in Western North Carolina.
Karlyn was selected as the 2020 Asheville Citizens-Times Division I Athlete of the Year for multi-sports. The WNC Sports Banquet is typically held at the Omni Grove Park Inn and athletes are presented with awards at that time. However, COVID-19 has prevented this year’s event from taking place at that venue. WLOS-TV is planning a one-hour special on June 27 to honor this year’s award winners. Receiving an invitation to the WNC Sports Banquet is certainly an enviable position among WNC athletes. However, this isn’t the first honor that Pickens has received in this area, and she has been gaining more recognition on the regional, state and national levels.
Pickens, a three-sport athlete, completed her sophomore year at North Buncombe High School in the spring of 2020. Thus far she’s had tremendous early success in basketball, volleyball and softball. She’s been a multi-year all-conference or honorable selection in all three sports. Her passion, however, is on the softball field. That passion and success started early. At 12 she was a member of the USA All-American 12U team. That team had the opportunity to play at the Women’s College World Series facility in Oklahoma City. At 16, she’s now a member of the USA-Elite Select 30 All-American team and also played at the Power-Aid State games this past year. She’s on the All-State First Team as well as being the Regional Player of the Year in NC. After receiving so much local and state-wide recognition, it’s no wonder that Division I major conference teams have taken notice.
Pickens is a “6-foot-1 flamethrower and one of the fastest rising prospects of any age division,” as stated on the Carolina Elite website. She consistently hits 70-mph on the mound and had over an 800 batting average during her Sophomore year, prior to the season being cut short due to the coronavirus. Karlyn has received interest from schools like Oklahoma, Tennessee, USC, Texas, Florida and Oregon, just to name a few. When asked what her goals are in regards to her future in softball, Karlyn quickly replied, “to play SEC Division I softball.” That privilege would put Ms. Pickens in rare air as a current 3-A MAC High School Athlete. In September of this year, according to NCAA rules, Karlyn will be eligible to receive direct contact from NCAA college recruiters.
Although her regular softball season was cut short at North Buncombe, she’s still getting plenty of playing time this spring and summer. In addition to playing for North Buncombe High School, Karlyn plays with the Carolina Elite 16U softball travel team. Her head coach, Dana Fusetti, is a former member of the Dutch National Team. While this year’s team won’t have the opportunity to compete against national teams at the typical California venue due to COVID-19 risks, they’ll continue to play and improve their play in tournaments around SC. Karlyn has been asked to play with the older 18U team in this year’s Junior Olympic Cup in Spartanburg, SC and has also been asked to try out for the 16U USA Team. Additionally, Pickens has weekly pitching practice at Premier Softball Hitting & Training Facility in Greenville, SC.
Karlyn’s hard work has shown dividends through her most recent recruit ranking by Extra Innings Softball publication. The softball publication has Karlyn ranked as the 6th highest overall prospect for the 2022 class, as well as the 3rd highest player at her position (pitcher).
Pickens is already setting goals for next season. “I’d like to continue to maintain pitching velocity and develop as a pitcher. I’m also looking forward to getting college offers after September 1st. My team goals for North Buncombe are to win conference and state.”
Contact North Buncombe Athletics for a full schedule of events for this upcoming fall and to catch Karlyn Pickens on the volleyball court.