North Buncombe High – Wednesday, Nov. 10 was National Signing Day for thousands of high school students playing Division I or II sports. A senior at North Buncombe High School, Karlyn Pickens, signed with the University of Tennessee.
While she played several sports for the North Buncombe Black Hawks, Pickens will just continue to play softball for the Volunteers. It’s a game she’s loves since she was just six years old.
“I played T-ball with my brothers when I was little and I always wanted to do something with my brothers being the youngest girl. I guess growing up with them just influenced me to play softball. Then ever since I was young, I wanted to play college softball, so here we are,” explained Karlyn.
As a pitcher, her top throwing speed is about 75 mph and 70 mph for games.
As for signing with the Vols, Karlyn says, “[The] first time I toured Tennessee, and I had gone to their camps growing up, I knew the atmosphere there was perfect,” she told the Tribune. “Karen Weekly (coach of the softball team) does a great job showing the girls a lot of love, and I knew I was going to have a great family atmosphere there.” The closeness to home was also a factor.
Along with playing for Black Hawk Coach Tiffany Ferguson, she also played for a travel team, South Carolina Elite. She has played travel ball since she was eight-years-old. Last year, the Hawks were 15-1 and made it to the regional finals before losing to Alexander Central, their only loss of the season.
“I’m thankful for my community and my school for supporting me, along with my coaches, teachers and teammates for pushing me. And my parents and me for getting me to where I am now.” Karlyn plans on studying kinesiology, the study of the movement of the human body.
“I know that Karlyn has worked so hard on her sport for the past 10 years. She’s gone to pitching lessons, travel ball tournaments across the country. She’s sacrificed a lot. So for her to put so much effort into something and then reach her goals, we’re just so blest,” said Rebecca Pickens, Karlyn’s mom.
Rebecca said Karlyn excels academically and at all three sports she plays – the other two being volleyball and basketball. She was chosen as WNC Mountain Amateur Female Athlete of the Year for 2020, 2021 and mom says she’s likely to get it again this year.
“That’s a huge honor as it encompasses all the districts, said Rebecca. “It just shows how she’s focused on the things she loves and still able to have family time, friend time and just be herself. So we’re super proud of the young lady she’s grown in to and that just makes us proud.”
According to Rebecca, even though Karlyn has committed to Tennessee, she still has another year of travel ball to play. Rebecca explained that the Vols gave Karlyn a full athletic scholarship.
Phillip Pickens, Karlyn’s dad, told the Tribune, “We have three kids and all of them are high achievers. This is just one more special moment for our family for her to be able to sign…The pride, as a dad, was the dedication it too to get here and the sacrifice that she has made.” Phillip said that as parents, they were willing to match the dedication that Karlyn put into the sport.
“She’s always been the captain of the ship, and we’ve only helped her navigate the way,” he said.