Darby: Heart of a champion
It seemed a remote dream, really, the notion that Seoul American, long viewed as a Korea power but decidedly ordinary anywhere else, could possibly upstage host and defending champion Kadena and capture the school’s first Far East softball title.
A dream that came true, thanks to the right arm of senior ace Katie Darby, named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
“I really didn’t think we could do it, to be honest,” coach Julian Harden said after the Falcons’ 14-10 eight-inning dethroning of the Panthers, behind Darby, who shrugged off a shoulder injury to throw a complete game and drive in two runs.
Darby battled the injury throughout the season. It didn’t affect her ability to pitch, but to throw overhand. Still, even when she struggled in the late innings of the Far East final, she refused to come out.
“She was able to gut it out,” Harden said. “She wanted to go out like that. Heart of a champion.”
That same heart, Harden said, helped her fashion a regular-season record of 4-0 as the Falcons went 12-0 and won the DODDS-Korea title. Darby also caught for pitching partner Leilani Shak, and batted .400 with six homers and 25 RBIs.
“She’s a fantastic athlete, the kind everybody wishes they had,” Harden said. “She’s a natural leader. She does everything the team needs. She walks the talk. She can catch, run, throw; she’s the total package. She’d fit in on anybody’s program in the Pacific.”
Darby came to Seoul American from Zama American, where she played as a freshman for coach Veronica Jones, who has fond memories of Darby. She didn’t pitch at Zama, so when she saw Darby on the mound in last month’s final, Jones expressed surprise.
“To see her pitch, I was amazed,” Jones said. “Her pitching, her composure. And to get injured and come back and lead her team to the championship, I just teared up.”
Darby now intends to walk on at University of Hawaii, and Harden, for one, thinks she’ll succeed there, too.
“She’s not flashy or flamboyant; she has tools and she’s just a hard worker,” he said.
email@example.comAll-Pacific softball teamKatie Darby, Brandi Kendall, Leilani Shak, Seoul American; Kiara Hodges, Desirae Seals, Kelly Kaneshiro, Lauren Youngs, Kadena; Bobby Jean Hilliard, Ashley LaFortune, Janellis Collins, Osan American; Alexa Tyer, Guam High; Shuri Seamans, Kubasaki; Dusty Keolanui-Wilson, Cheyenne Tullos, Kinnick; Julia Marrin, Tjaden Cornell, Yokota; Alysa Prather, Zama American; Nikka Stephens, E.J. King; BreOnna Ruffin, Edgren; Anya Proctor, Daegu American.