GRAY -- Kristen Carr has had to overcome plenty in her softball career, so taking over most of the pitching load for the Jones County team in her senior season was not that daunting.
She proved she was up to the task this season by leading her team to the GHSA Class AAAA championship. Carr, who finished with a 33-7 record, has been named The Telegraph’s All-Middle Georgia Softball Player of the Year.
“We were not expecting (a state championship) at all,” Carr said. “We practiced hard, and we had a lot of fun this year, and it was exciting to win the state title. It was a great year.”
Carr certainly has had a great career with the Jones County program. She was 18-8 in 2009 with a .890 ERA after going 9-8 in her first two seasons.
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And she has done all that while battling a hearing impairment. Head coach Blake Lyons said Carr is deaf in her right ear and has an implant in her left ear.
“She really had to adapt to her new role with this year’s team,” Lyons said. “We knew she was a great pitcher, but in other years, we had other pitchers we could depend on, and I usually prefer to have at least two pitchers and not put everything on one pitcher. But this year, she was the only true pitcher we had, and she’s a true power pitcher.
“We were counting on her big time this year, and she just did a great job for us this season.”
Carr showed just how ready she was to be a leader when Jones County played in the Brookwood Invitational.
After pitching two games in one day, Lyons was ready to hand the ball to someone else for Jones County’s game against Mill Creek, but Carr talked him into letting her pitch.
Jones County ended up winning 6-5, rallying from a 5-1 deficit.
“She wanted the ball and stepped up for her team,” Lyons said. “We knew she was a good pitcher; she was all-state last year. But that really showed her teammates a lot, and she as a real leader for this team.”
That’s not really a big surprise, considering how Carr has overcome her hearing impairment.
Lyons said he and his staff have had to adjust some things for Carr, like relaying information to the first baseman, who then tells Carr what the coaches want.
“She has really learned how to deal with things, and that has helped her with her success this season,” Lyons said. “She has learned to deal with it better, and that has helped her on the field.”
That showed up in the numbers Carr put up on the field this season. She finished her final high school season with a 1.57 ERA with 12 shutouts and 290 strikeouts in 267-1/3 innings of work. The season was wrapped up by a strong performance in Columbus in the Elite Eight and a 3-1 win over Greenbrier for the state title.
“That was exciting, pitching over there in the stadium and in those games,” Carr said. “I thought we’d be good, and I noticed it a couple of years ago. Some of us have been playing together since middle school, and you could see we were going to have a good team.
“To win the state title as a senior is really special.”