Dallas King has achieved a lot during her time at Jay M. Robinson High, winning the South Piedmont Conference crown in softball and being named the conference's top pitcher as well as to all-conference and all-state teams.
The one goal that has eluded her is a trip to Raleigh, where the top four teams in North Carolina compete for a state title at season's end. Although her Bulldogs team has less experience than teams of the past, making the journey to the state capital in June is what King aims to do in this, her senior season.
"I want to go out with a bang," she said. "I want to make it something special."
King stands out because of her skill with her off-speed pitches: curveball, drop ball, rise ball, screwball and changeup.
"You won't ever catch me throwing a fastball," she said. "Whatever mix of pitches comes out of a game, whatever's working against their hitters, is what I'll throw."
Robinson coach Jim Allen said King has no need to throw a fastball because she's mastered her off-speed arsenal.
"The fastball is not dominant, and if she can throw something that spins that's the same speed, why not call it?" said Allen. "She has so many pitches and normally she hits the spot I call. (For me) as a coach, that's wonderful."
Having worked on her rise ball in the offseason, King has better control of that pitch, said Allen. Last year, he said, he would call for that pitch only when the team was ahead, because she didn't have it completely under control. King said she's confident with the pitch now and won't hesitate to throw it for strikes.
That confidence is important to King, who said a pitcher can't succeed without it.
King also said she enjoys playing under pressure. Knowing her team is looking up to her pushes her to be more consistent.
"If I have an off game, it affects the whole team," she said. "But I like the pressure. It keeps me on my game."
As a team captain, she said, she's trying to help her youngest teammates. King remembers what it was like to be the lone freshman on the varsity three years ago and wants to help her teammates fit in.
"I want to make sure that they adjust and get used to everything," the senior said. "They get nervous and whatever, so I just try to keep them going."
King said young players will be important for the Bulldogs this year, as they lost their catcher, shortstop, third baseman and left fielder, among others, from last season.
"I think that with the freshmen coming in and the experienced girls getting better over the summer, we're better offensively, for sure," she said. "We lost a lot, but we also gained a lot. Hopefully that will work out."
Freshmen Samantha Grazier, a catcher, and Keleigh Romine, a third baseman, have impressed King. Tiffany Talent, Lauren Soucie, Kayla England, Paige Calloway and Allie Schill also return.
King added that the team has clicked early and has good chemistry.
"We have a better team dynamic. We're all friends," the 18-year-old said. "I'm excited about how we get along."
With only two full-time starters back from last year, Allen said, the team has its work cut out.
"I know everybody counts us out this year," said Allen. "But we'll be all right."
He said Central Cabarrus, Northwest Cabarrus and Hickory Ridge should be tough challengers, while Mount Pleasant and Concord have players that could allow them to surprise.
"We're not taking anybody for granted," said Allen.
For the Bulldogs to win the conference, he said, they will have to be solid defensively.
"If this team plays good defense, Dallas will keep us in games, and we'll win most of them," said Allen.
Although King has a lot to play for this season, she's also already looking forward to next year, when she'll join the Winthrop University softball team.
"It's kind of surreal," she said. "I've been working for it since I was in eighth grade ... so I'm ready to finally get there after so long."