Lake Norman & Mooresville

Senior catcher again dominates competition

Sarah Mooney has been one of the most dominant softball players in the state the past two seasons.

This year alone, the senior catcher has not only led her team with 19 home runs, but she's also hitting above .700 at the plate.

"She's almost unpitchable at the high school level right now," said North Mecklenburg coach Paul Kikta.

But that didn't just happen overnight. Mooney, who earned the nickname "Boomer" because of her powerful bat in rec ball growing up, had to develop a strong work ethic through the years to get to her level of play.

After her family moved to the area from West Virginia, then-6-year-old Mooney started playing softball to meet friends.

That's when she discovered the position that would eventually earn her All-American honors.

Mooney admits she sort of just landed in that role.

"I was literally so bad that they couldn't find another place to hide me," the 18-year-old said. "They just stuck me in the gear and put me behind the plate."

A self-described "daddy's girl," Mooney admits she pursued her sport trying to follow in the footsteps of her father, Will, a former baseball player.

She said that her dad has been important in her growth as a softball player.

In addition to almost-daily practices during high school season, Mooney often comes out to the North Meck softball field with her father to work on everything from her batting technique to her catching skills. That goes on year-round.

"Always having someone there who knows the fundamentals and who's also willing to learn new techniques to help me resolve issues has made a lot of difference," she said.

Mooney said that what she does away from practice - putting in the extra effort to improve - is what has allowed her to excel in softball.

Kikta said that mentality has helped the Vikings.

"She's a coach's dream," he said. "As soon as she stepped on this campus, on this field, we became that much better. You get a player like this maybe once or twice in a life time."

As a freshman, Mooney didn't see time at her natural position, instead pitching for North Meck. Mooney had a good first season, earning all-conference honors.

With a talented pitching staff returning the next season, including Sara Allen and Morgan Lashley, Mooney went back to catcher. She was glad to be behind the plate again.

"You're involved in every single play," said Mooney of why she enjoys her position. "You're pretty much the captain of the field, directing where the ball goes, what happens."

Even as a sophomore, Mooney began calling the Vikings' pitches, which she does all by herself now.

Kikta said he doesn't hesitate to trust her with those duties.

"She probably knows more about the game than us three coaches together," he said. "It's like having an extra coach on the field."

Having earned back-to-back all-state accolades coming into this season, Mooney had high goals for her senior year. Even though her team had lost seven starters - both to graduation and to the opening of Hough High - she also expected her team to contend for an I-Meck title.

Although Mooney and the Vikings came up short of that goal, finishing second in the conference behind Lake Norman, they were able to claim the I-Meck tournament title.

North Meck, which was 23-3 heading into Friday's second-round playoff game against Hopewell, also had help from Mooney's batterymate, Lashley.

"They've flourished this year," said Kikta.

Mooney said that with Lashley's talent, she's able to keep opposing batters off balance and from getting hits.

With runners on base, Mooney's also able to use her strong arm to prevent them from stealing.

Mooney, who signed to play softball at James Madison, has also been efficient time on the mound for the Vikings.

With her career nearing its end at North Meck, Kikta said Mooney will be extremely missed next year.

"She means everything to me and this program," he said.

Mooney said she'll also miss her teammates and Kikta's jinking, especially his "dancing" to avoid foul balls while coaching the team from the third-base box.

But she's excited about continuing her softball career with the Dukes.

Kikta said they should also be excited to have her on their team.

"I don't think James Madison truly understand what they're getting yet," he said. "They're very fortunate to get her."

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