Softball wasn’t Kara Howard’s first love when it came to sports.
It’s turned out to be her biggest love.
Howard graduates from Franklin County High School today, having spent the last four years as a varsity pitcher for the Lady Flyers.
This season Howard was the only pitcher for FCHS, throwing every pitch for the Lady Flyers, who went 29-9 and finished as the 11th Region Tournament runners-up ranked 17th in the state.
Last year Howard was Franklin County’s starting pitcher, but Ashley Hack saw plenty of time in the circle.
“She’s a different pitcher than I am,” Howard said of Hack. “When teams started hitting me they’d bring Ashley in, and she did an awesome job.”
Hack, a junior, suffered a knee injury prior to the start of this season and wasn’t able to play.
“It was definitely a big loss when she couldn’t be the back-up this year,” Howard said.
Howard has been named an East Senior All-Star and will be playing in all-star games next weekend at Ballard High School in Louisville.
She earned first team all-state honors last year and was second team all-state as a sophomore.
Howard tried a variety of sports as a young child, playing soccer, basketball and softball.
But it was gymnastics that caught her attention.
“Honestly, softball was not the first sport I really liked,” Howard said. “I was a gymnast.”
She trained at the Versailles Gymnastics Center and was one of the top gymnasts in her age group when she was diagnosed with epilepsy and was forced to give up her favorite sport.
“If they didn’t pull me out (of gymnastics), I wouldn’t be playing softball,” Howard said. “I love gymnastics, and now I love softball. Things happen for a reason, and I wouldn’t change anything for the world.
“My sister, Andrea Howard, played softball and she’d say ‘let’s go out and in the yard and throw the ball.’ She showed me how to pitch, really the bare minimum, and that’s how I got hooked on it.
“I first took an interest in pitching when I was in the rec league, and a man came up to my dad and said you need to get her some pitching lessons.”
Howard took pitching lessons from Vernon Bibb for 10 years, until his passing just over a year ago.
“He said if it hurts don’t do it,” Howard said, “and we were going to try it another way. You can get fatigued, but there’s not as much stress because it’s a natural motion.”
Howard will continue her education and softball career at Georgetown College. Andrea Howard graduated from Georgetown in May. She was a four-year member of the Georgetown women’s basketball team and was named first team All-America last season.
Proximity to home and family ties played a big part in Kara Howard’s college decision.
“I told my parents don’t put the orange and black away yet,” she said. “That was a big part of my decision. I wanted my parents to be able to come watch me play. I can’t imagine them not being there.
“Andrea’s done amazing things at Georgetown in basketball. My mom went there, and my grandfather went there. It was a good fit.”
And, it turns out, so is softball.
“I had an outburst of home runs this year,” Howard said. “I love hitting home runs, but I love hitting line drives, running the bases, I love fielding, the whole atmosphere of the game.”