South Charlotte

Athlete of the week: Senior stepping into the spotlight for the Hawks

Katie Summa started the softball season at catcher. She'd only played the position once before. Then she moved to center field. Just last week, she practiced at third base.

After not getting much playing time her first three seasons on varsity, the Charlotte Latin senior has become one of the most important - and versatile - players on an inexperienced Hawks team.

Summa didn't start playing softball until her seventh-grade year at Latin. It was a tough transition from field hockey, which she had played since fourth grade. But Summa, 18, just loved sports.

"I'm just really competitive by nature," she said.

She did horseback-riding, gymnastics and basketball growing up. Even now she still plays a sport all three seasons at Latin: field hockey in the fall, swimming in the winter and softball in the spring.

Summa didn't instantly take to softball.

"As I got older, it sort of came a little more natural with me," she said.

She recalls one game where everything clicked: Last year, she was playing for an injured right-fielder. She struck out her first two at-bats, then ripped a triple her third time at the plate.

"I've never heard my coach yell so loud (as) when I got to third," she said.

That's when she realized: "I had the potential to be good."

Her first three years were spent mostly on the bench. As a freshman, she often was used as a pinch runner, which gave her a love of running the bases. During her sophomore and junior years, she played sparingly, filling in for injured players.

Coach Eric Smith joined the Hawks when Summa was a freshman. Those first three years, Smith knew exactly what he had in his team.

"For the last few years, I have known what the lineup was going to be every day," he said.

Latin has finished third in the state the last two years. This year, they lost six seniors, all starters, from last year's team. The new, inexperienced lineup has been a big adjustment, said Smith.

The three returning starters, however, were three of the best players on Latin's team: junior pitcher Garland Austin (all-conference and all-state), senior shortstop Morgan Henry (all-conference and all-state) and junior catcher Katharina Miles. But when Miles came to Smith before the season with a stress fracture in her back, Summa had to step in.

She had only played a few innings last year as a catcher and now she was starting in the position at the beginning of the season.

"It was fun being involved in every play but it was also much more stressful," said Summa. She spent her middle school years wanting to play in the infield but now she's most comfortable in center field, where Smith moved her after a couple games at catcher this year. Summa said it takes a different mindset to play outfield, and she realized she has a talent for it.

That doesn't mean she won't see action in the infield. Last week, she was practicing at third base to fill in for another player. Smith said she's the first reserve infielder. If someone gets hurt, she'll be there.

"She's willing to do anything I ask her to do," said Smith.

After her triple last year, Summa has settled in at the plate. She's batting cleanup for the Hawks and averages .379 with five doubles, two triples and nine RBIs. In last week's win against conference rival Providence Day, she was 2-2 and drove in the two go-ahead runs in the fourth inning to help the Hawks (7-3, 2-1 CISAA through April 25) to a 9-6 win.

"I thought I would be nervous hitting in the fourth spot ... but I love hitting," said Summa.

When she was sitting on the bench for her first three years, Smith said, Summa had a great attitude. She came to practice with a smile and didn't complain about playing time. She tried to get better at every practice.

"She works hard," said Smith. "She's the kid every coach talks about wanting on their team."

Summa has embraced her leadership role as one of four seniors. She's ready to lead the team by example, even if that means playing positions she's not comfortable in.

"I want to help the team as much as I can," said Summa.

Smith knows that if the Hawks want a chance to do well in the state playoffs, they will need Summa's help.

"She's gone from not playing much to being one of the better players on the team," said Smith. "She's a huge part of what we do."