MSSU's Pickens shines during freshman season

Apr. 19—Missouri Southern State University's freshman softball pitcher Kiki Pickens has been a bright spot over the course of the 2024 season.

The 5-foot-9 right hander joined MSSU after graduating from Beebe High School in Beebe, Arkansas.

Pickens has pitched in 26 games this year and started 23. She has 12 complete games and has turned in a 2.01 earned run average. That ERA is good for ninth in the MIAA.

"When Kiki is healthy, she's an unstoppable force," Lions' head coach Hallie Blackney said. "She's not scared of anything. She's really stepped up this year. I'm proud of her and excited for her future."

The only other freshman in the top 10 for ERA is Pittsburg State University's Ava Laurent in seventh at 1.86.

Pickens spoke about nerves to begin the season with her new team and in her first experience at the college level.

"It was definitely nerve-wracking when I first started playing," she said. "But as I went on my team was there to help me and encourage me.

Pickens sports a 10-8 record and has 110 strikeouts in 117 2/3 innings of work. She's limited the opposition's power with just three home runs being hit against her. Opponent's are hitting just .207 against the young righty.

"Just trusting my pitches and being confident out there. I know my teammates have my back," Pickens said.

Her favorite pitch is her dropball right now. She says the level of competition has been the biggest adjustment from high school to college.

She's even swung the bat a little bit, going 3 for 7 at the plate with a double and two RBIs. Her high school career was full of offensive statistics, so Pickens could be a two-way player for Blackney moving forward.

Senior Adrianna Young left a comment on what she's seen from her new teammate this year:

"Oh, my gosh. She's amazing. She's a straight dog. She has that mentality that's attack everything. Coming in as a freshman it can be intimidating going from high school ball and travel ball and she's handled this better than anyone I could ever imagine. She pushes us and we push her. (I'm) very blessed she's here."