SOFTBALL: Big three wrap up collegiate careers

FRONT ROYAL — Three of the best softball players from the Northern Virginia area are wrapping up their collegiate careers this week.

Former Warren County pitching star Nicole King, and former Skyline sluggers Sabrie Neeb and Taylor Henry excelled at their former high schools, each earning collegiate scholarships in the process four years ago.

King (New Haven College D-2) and Taylor (Georgetown D-1) concluded their excellent collegiate careers last week and Neeb (Tennessee Tech D-1) is still playing in her conference tournament - trying to win it for the second consecutive year.

The trio not only dominated at the high school level, but excelled at the collegiate level as well.

King, who hold nearly all of the Warren County career records in pitching, finished with 568 strikeouts in 519 innings for the D-2 Chargers.

King was only the third New Haven pitcher to reach the 500 mark in career strikeouts.

King also ranks first all-time in Charger history in opposing batting average against at .193 and earned All-Northeast Conference honors four years in a row.

"Playing college softball was a dream come true," said King, also the Chargers MVP this season. "And playing at New Haven was a great experience. It was an experience I will always be grateful for and softball will definitely be missed in my life."

King finished her senior season at New Haven with a 1.61 ERA, 163 strikeouts in 130.2 innings and allowed just one home run all season.

"We are very proud of Nicole's accomplishments over the past four years," said King's former Warren County coach Justin Stock. "She came into the NCAA and enjoyed success right away, continued to work hard and improve. I believe her strong work ethic will translate in her future endeavors after graduation and she will be the standard bearer for future Wildcats for years to come."

King, a psychology major, says she will seek a career path around the New Haven, Connecticut area and continue giving pitching lessons.

"I can't stay away from softball for too long," King said.

Neeb is hoping to lead her Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles to a second straight Ohio Valley Conference tournament championship this week.

Neeb overcame injuries from her high school days and a transfer from St. Francis after her freshman season to help be a driving force in the middle of the Golden Eagles lineup.

Neeb is leading Tennessee Tech with a .306 batting average and is second on the team in homers with 7 and RBI with 26. Neeb is also stolen 6-of-8 on stolen base attempts.

"It's certainly been a journey between the transfer and the injuries," Neeb said. "I wouldn't take a single day for granted and I'm beyond grateful that God and my family have been there with me every step of the way."

A business management major, Neeb said she's not sure what she will do after graduation this summer.

A life without softball hasn't sunken in quite yet.

"I'm pretty lost now that it's almost over, because it's the only thing I've ever know to do," Neeb said. "I'm on a hitting streak, so hopefully I will be able to help the team win yet another OVC championship.

"I'm still exploring my options in the work field, I'll look more into growing up when softball is officially over."

Henry, a four-year starter for the Big East Conference Hoya's, was a team captain her senior year and was second on the team with a .321 batting average.

Although the Hoya's struggled this season to a 9-35 record, Henry was a solid all-around player, hitting .415 in Big East play, third in sacrifice fly and second in fielding assists and fourth with 10 double plays.

"Playing at the collegiate level was an incredible experience," Henry said. "I feel beyond lucky that I received an outstanding education from a prestigious university while also traveling the country and playing the sport I love."

Henry, a psychology major, said the best part of playing at Georgetown was meeting her teammates from all over the country and beating No. 7 ranked Louisville.

"Traveling and spending time with my incredible team was my favorite part and they will be lifelong friends," Henry said. "In the near future I will be applying to graduate schools and hopefully become a licensed clinical psychologist. After that I plan to enter the mental health field and specialize in individual clinical therapy for adolescents."

Current Skyline head coach and Neeb and Henry's former assistant coach said both players have bright futures ahead of them.

"Taylor and Sabrie were both great players and team leaders," Ritter said. "They set the standard for Skyline softball that continues today. I have no doubt that they both would do well at the collegiate level.

"It was great to watch both of them play in a D-1 regional tournament."

The trio of King, Henry and Neeb and the example they set at the high school and collegiate level will always be something local players can look up to and hopefully emulate.

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