Dallas King did just about everything a softball player can do last year, going 22-4 on the mound with a 1.67 ERA, while being named all-conference, all-region and all-state.
She did that while leading Jay M. Robinson to one of their best seasons in recent memory as the Bulldogs went 23-4 to win the South Piedmont Conference and advanced all the way to the 3A state quarterfinals.
King also had a strong summer with her club team, the Carolina Angels and at several camps, impressing college coaches from College of Charleston to Western Carolina to Winthrop.
Fast forward to this spring, and after it seemed nothing could go wrong for King, it seems like nothing is going right.
King, a junior, suffered a lower-back injury that kept her out for the first three weeks of the season, leaving the Robinson team without their No. 1 pitcher to start the season.
"A month ago, I just couldn't pitch because my back hurt so badly," said King . "But I am getting better every day now. I still have a little pain here and there, but I can deal with it. I can play through the pain."
King, who is seeing a chiropractor three times a week, should be back to normal soon. Her return will mean better results for a young, but talented Robinson team that has gotten off to an uncharacteristically slow start at 2-5, including 1-2 in the SPC. King (1-2 this season) has even suffered two, one-run losses in the last few games, but has also gone the distance in each game pitching 22 innings, overall.
"We really started this season a little 'blah,'" said King . "We haven't been as sharp and we've been making a lot of errors. But we are a good team and we will turn it around."
While King will be the key to success, the silver lining in this tough start is that Robinson now also has confidence in another pitcher, junior Paige Calloway, who filled in admirably for King.
"Paige did a nice job for us when Dallas was out," said Robinson softball coach Jim Allen. "But there is certainly a level of confidence that Dallas brings when she came back. We know that we are going to be in every game with her on the mound."
King, the 2010 SPC Pitcher of the Year, has changed some of her approach this season, as she has not thrown a fastball all season. Instead, King features a wide array of movement and location as well as a rise-ball that is probably her best pitch. King's control has allowed her to only walk one batter all season.
She is also strong at the plate, where is she batting well above .300 for the second year in a row.
While King is thinking about her future, for now she is squarely focused on helping Robinson succeed, as she and the senior core of leaders on Robinson, including catcher Hayley Lewis, shortstop Megan Crowe and first baseman, Alex Church, try to right the ship.
"Last year, I don't think any of us expected to be that good, that fast," said King. "But Coach Allen gave us a lot of confidence. I think we need to find that again. We just need to play our game and good things will happen."
While there is solid senior leadership on this Robinson team, King's performances on the mound may dictate whether the Bulldogs can get back in the SPC race and be a factor in the conference and the playoffs.
"Dallas is not a rah-rah type of leader," said Allen. "But her teammates follow her lead by example. A lot of our success depends on how good she can be on the mound."