By Mike London
CHINA GROVE — Carson senior Lonna Addison is making softball look very easy right now.
It’s not easy, success can never be taken for granted, and a slump is always one at-bat or one pitch way, but Addison manages to keep an even keel.
She has been working diligently at the game she loves for a long time. Right now, she’s simply reaping rewards from all the hours she’s put in.
“I started playing softball when I was 4,” said Addison, who is a first cousin of Catawba baseball slugger Logan Rogers. “Travel ball started when I was 7. My father and my older sister got me started and were the biggest inspirations for me playing. I knew by the time I was 10 that softball would be my sport.”
The two-way Cougar is not only striking people out, she’s racking up RBIs at an alarming rate. She is making Lees-McRae, the Division II school in Banner Elk that signed her, look very smart.
Addison is 2-1 in the circle this season with 40 strikeouts (2 per inning) and a 1.78 ERA. She’s batting .454 with three homers and 16 RBIs in Carson’s first six games.
Addison’s epic performance against a talented West Rowan squad last week attracted statewide attention. She belted two homers and struck out 13 Falcons to lead a 6-1 road win.
“I definitely think that was a good game for everyone on our team,” Addison said. “We did really well at putting the ball in play and making things happen. Pitching wise I think I did a pretty good job of keeping them off balance. But defense had my back when the ball was put in play and that is what won us the game.”
West has one of the nation’s top juniors in Tennessee commit Emma Clarke. Clarke had a homer and a single in that game, her softball debut following a state-championship basketball season, but Addison was able to strike her out once.
Addison’s development was accelerated by travel softball. She credits Carolina Elite coaches Shannon Hawk and Kristen Compton with helping her find herself.
“They had a big impact on my career because they not only made me a better player, they helped me become a better person and teammate,” Addison said.
Addison’s freshman season at Carson was the one that COVID crushed.
Her sophomore season was shortened to 15 games by COVID, but she emerged as an exciting young pitcher for Carson coach Charissa Duncan. She was 9-1 for the Cougars with 85 strikeouts.
Her junior season included 110 more strikeouts in the circle, but she also enjoyed a breakout as a hitter with five homers, 27 RBIs and a .346 batting average.
Addison stayed extra-busy last summer. Besides travel ball, she was a workhorse pitcher for the Rowan Lady Legion program.
“Loved Legion,” Addison said. “I think the best part was getting to know other girls from other schools in the county, and they became more than just players on the field. I got to know them on a more personal level.”
Lee-McRae began recruiting Addison early and was able to do so successfully. Helping form a positive connection between Addison and the Bobcats was Hunter Gibbons, who was elevated from assistant coach to Carson’s head coaching job prior to this season. Gibbons enjoyed a stellar career at Western Carolina. Kendall Fuller, who was an assistant at Western Carolina during Gibbons’ playing days, is now the head coach at Lees-McRae.
“When schools started contacting me, Lees-McRae wasn’t always my No. 1 pick, but the more I looked at the school, the more I fell in love with the environment and the softball program,” Addison said. “Coach Gibbons played for Coach Fuller and loved her.”
Addison signed with the Bobcats back in November.
Addison gets asked frequently if she’ll be a two-way player at Lees-McRae. She still thinks of herself as a pitcher first, but she’s a pitcher who can really swing the bat.
“I hope to continue to do both things at Lees-McRae, but I enjoy pitching the most,” Addison said.
Addison has a five-pitch mix when she heads to the circle. Most of her strikeouts come on curveballs or riseballs.
Addison didn’t pitch Thursday. Phoebe Cole was in the circle as Carson routed Lake Norman Charter 18-2, but Addison still made a major contribution with a homer and five RBIs.
If the Cougars are going to make noise in a very tough South Piedmont Conference this season, they’ll need both pitchers to continue to perform at their peak.
Addison has set big goals, starting with team goals, but she also has individual ones.
“The immediate answer as far as goals would be Pitcher of the Year, but more importantly, I want to keep growing as a person,” Addison said. “I want to be someone my teammates can look to for anything now or in the future.”