Senior center fielder is Farmington's unquestioned leader
FARMINGTON — The Lady Scorpions softball team isn't looking as good as it was during KK Blackwood's first three years of high school, but you wouldn't know that by the senior's attitude.
Last spring, Farmington graduated four seniors, all of whom started last season. And recently, coach Tim Trotter had to kick two other starters off the team for violating team rules. Through the shakeups, there has been one constant, and that's been Blackwood.
"She's almost like another coach," Trotter said. "Like (on Saturday) when I had to help set up the scoreboard, she was out there getting the balls out and leading the warm-ups. That's just how she is. She's the first one to the field and the first one asking for extra fly balls at the end of practice. She does so much for this ball club."
The Lady Scorpions didn't finish above .500 in any of Blackwood's first three seasons on varsity, but they did enough to make it to the state tournament each year. That feat may be harder to come by this season for a young, depleted squad that is off to a 2-9 start.
But Blackwood doesn't think about that. Instead, she said, she focuses on what she can control. And that's the way she goes about her business in practice and games.
"I blank out and make sure I'm not thinking about how the team's doing when I get in the (batter's) box," Blackwood said. "When I hit, I keep a clear mind. And I support my teammates no matter what. That's really all you can do."
No matter how the team is doing, Blackwood embraces her leadership role.
"I think being a leader is about keeping everyone up," she said. "You have to know everybody's strengths and weaknesses, and if one of my girls (has) a weakness, I stay after practice to help them work on it. It's very vital that you pick people up."
It's easy for the rest of the Lady Scorps to look up to Blackwood, one of three seniors left on the team. Not only does she demonstrate a stellar work ethic in practice, she also walks the walk on the field.
As Farmington's lead-off hitter and starting center fielder, she sported a gaudy .505 batting average in 2015, and she's been even better this year, hitting just under .700. The only game Blackwood failed to register a hit in this season was Farmington's March 10 loss to Palo Verde.
Blackwood refers to herself as "a slapper," meaning she almost always foregoes a power stroke at the plate and instead focuses on putting enough of the bat on a ball to earn herself a single. She's very tough to get out, according to Trotter.
"She's just great at putting the ball in play," Trotter said. "She's constantly talking about where she's going to place a ball and constantly picking apart defenses."
Always engaged with her teammates and usually seen laughing with them on the practice field and in the dugout, Blackwood said she loves the game of softball and is fully committed to it — she doesn't play any other sports at FHS.
Perhaps Blackwood is always in good spirits because she knows she's going to be playing for a powerhouse at the next level.
In November, she signed her national letter of intent to play for Southeastern Oklahoma University in Durant, Okla., which is off to a 19-9 start this season. In three of the last four years, SOSU has played for the Great American Conference championship.
Though she's always locked in on her next game and her next at-bat, Blackwood said she can't help but get excited for her college playing career.
"I'll be taking the place of (Jessica Simmons), and she slaps. This is her senior year, so I'll be the only slapper when I get out there," she said. "When we're not playing, I'm hitting or working out on my own, 'cause I need to be prepared. (SOSU) is awesome, they're beating everybody right now. I can't let them down."
Blackwood will see some time at second base but will primarily play in the outfield during her freshman season.
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.
A closer look: KK Blackwood
1. Favorite team?
2. Favorite athlete?
3. Favorite food?
"Pasta and fettucine alfredo."
4. Favorite movie?
5. Favorite subject in school?
6. Least favorite subject?
7. Biggest fear?
"Being chased by a murderer with a chainsaw. How scary would that be?"
8. Do you play any other sports?
9. What is the first thing you would do with $1 million?
"I would probably give most of it to charity and then try and build a wildlife (conservatory)."
10. Do you have any pregame rituals?
No pre-game rituals, but I have a pre at-bat ritual I always do.
11. Favorite superhero?