Watson living the dream

Published 5:49 pm Friday, January 20, 2012

Former Washington High School softball star Charity Watson (center) poses for a picture with South Carolina coach Beverly Smith (left) and assistant coach Calvin Beamon during a Gamecocks football game. Watson, a junior transfer, is preparing for her first season pitching for South Carolina. (Contributed Photo)

She’s dominated at every level she’s played at and starting this spring star hurler Charity Watson will get a chance to do so again only this time on one of the biggest stages in amateur athletics as a member of the South Carolina Gamecocks.
Pitching in the Southeastern Conference will be a big step up for Watson but the former Washington High School strikeout artist is ready to live out her lifelong dream.
“I feel honored to have this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I know the conference will be tough but my goal my whole life was to one day play against the best there is,” Watson said via email from Columbia, SC.
Though she had a bevy of suitors, Watson said South Carolina fits like a glove because of the high level of competition combined with her faith that Gamecocks coach Beverly Smith, a former pitcher at North Carolina, can help elevate her game.
“(I was recruited by) UCF, Auburn, Arkansas, Appalachian State and Charleston Southern. I chose SC because they play in the SEC, it’s the closest to home, a beautiful school and the coaches and girls were very nice and welcoming,” Watson said. “It just felt right and Coach Smith is the only coach that told me she could make me better cause she used to be a pitcher at UNC.”
You can’t blame Watson for seeking new challenges considering she has made easy work of every batter she’s faced since the days of travel ball.
Watson burst on to the scene as a freshman in 2004 and took the area by storm with an electric fastball that would enable her to win four straight Washington Daily News Pitcher of the Year honors and etch her name into the Pam Pack and state record books.
Upon graduation in 2008, Watson went on to play for coach Junior Bailey at Pitt Community College where her tradition of excellence continued for two more years and caught the eye of Smith.
Watson finished her four-year varsity career with 1,245 strikeouts, which ranks fourth in the state, while her 384 punch outs her sophomore year is the 10th best single-season total in state history.
The heroic hurler would go on to record five perfect games and an astounding 17 no-hitters which both rank sixth in North Carolina history while her 53 shutouts stands at fifth along with her lifetime .29 ERA.
Those who watched Watson play can recall many memorable moments but perhaps her most amazing performance came when she fanned an remarkable 39 batters in 17 innings to lead the Pack to a 1-0 win over Coastal Conference rival New Bern.
It was a warrior effort by Watson and it’s that kind of refuse-to-lose style and attitude that Smith loves about her new pitcher.
“I’m really looking forward to her competitiveness. She really loves to play softball,” Smith said. “I want that competitiveness on the field.”
After high school Watson starred for the PCC Bulldogs where she racked up a 63-12 record over two seasons and continued to produce PlayStation-type stats. In 2009 the freshman went 31-5 and rang up 431 batters in 250.2 innings while walking only 75 hitters. She would end the year with a minuscule .42 ERA, which was second best in the entire NJCAA.
The next season Watson would go 32-7, recording 401 Ks in 225.2 innings of work as she allowed a mere 66 hits and 65 walks. This time around the sophomore would win the ERA crown (.50) and earn her second straight Region X Pitcher of the Year award.
“We had been tracking her numbers from junior college and they were outstanding,” Smith said. “I had the opportunity to watch her at the national tournament throw in a game, and I loved her competitiveness. She had great movement on the ball. You can certainly see why she’s a high strikeout pitcher.”
It was under the tutelage of Coach Bailey that Watson was able to blossom into more of a complete pitcher that does not rely solely on her physical gifts to get through challenging college lineups.
“I learned that in college its more mental than physical,” Watson said. “Girls in a college lineup can hit one through nine versus one through four in high school … Coach Bailey help transition me into the college scene quickly and smoothly from high school.”
In Columbia, Smith’s biggest concern isn’t so much about Watson’s transition to SEC play but about how fast the junior can adapt to her new address and teammates.
“I think the real challenge for Charity will be the adjustment to being in Columbia and to 22 new teammates and she’s having to do that very quickly,” Smith said. “I’m not worried about any deficiency in her pitching because I think we can work on those things. It’s going to be the adjustment to the talent in the SEC and being in Columbia away from home and new teammates.”
If Watson can find home as quickly as her fastball, her next addresst just might be in the SEC record books.