Huntington North High School has produced some outstanding athletes. They have had individual state champions in golf and wrestling, produced an Indiana Miss Basketball, Indiana All-Stars in boys basketball, and numerous all-state performers.
But arguably the Vikings had never had an athlete as dominant in their sport as Katie Hackney was in softball during her time at HNHS.
In all likelihood, Hackney could have been a state champion in track throwing the discus. She was that good in middle school. But she was even better as a pitcher in softball.
As a freshman, she struck out a then-school record 225 batters.
During her sophomore year, she gave up a run in her first start, then didn’t give another over the next eight games. Over those nine games, she struck out 109 batters in 50 innings with just five hits allowed, and had recorded three no-hitters.
Huntington North entered the second week of April with home-and-home matchups against Muncie Central. In the Wednesday contest at Muncie, Hackney had flirted with a perfect game, but one Muncie batter had reached on an error. She had to settle for her fourth no-hitter of the season.
The next day, Muncie Central came to Huntington. Hackney was determined that no Bearcat would reach base this time. No Bearcat even came close. Hackney had her fifth no-hitter, and first perfect game.
With the perfect (no pun intended) setup, a result backed up by terrific quotes from Hackney turned a good story into a great one. It earned me a first-place sportswriting award from the Indiana Associated Press Managing Editors that year.
I covered another Hackney perfect game the next season — her fifth — which made for another terrific story. Hackney had few goals left, and the one she wanted not just to pitch a perfect game, but to strike out every batter she faced. On this day in April, 2007, she came as close as she ever would. Hackney struck out the first 17 Jay County batters she faced. It wasn’t until the sixth inning until any opposing batter put a ball in play. She struck out one more in the seventh inning to give her 18 for the game, one short of her personal record 19 in a single contest.
I left the Herald-Press in February of the next year, and didn’t get a chance to cover Hackney’s final year. She was just as dominant.
She was Indiana Gatorade Player of the Year her senior season. She finished her career with five perfect games and 21 no-hitters, earning 51 wins and 1,011 strikeouts. The Vikings went undefeated in the regular season in each of her last three seasons. On top of her athletic achievements, she finished high school with a grade-point average that was (pun absolutely intended) perfect. Hackney went on to play at Purdue.
Hackney is not the only standout pitcher in HNHS history. Ashley Seibold pitched back-to-back perfect games for the Vikings in 2003 and finished with four no-hitters.
Erin Rethlake followed Hackney, and was every bit her equal. In an amazing junior season, Rethlake finished 23-1 with 317 strikeouts in 154 innings to earn the state Gatorade award. Rethlake was injured a large part of her senior season, but still finished 13-2 with 138 strikeouts, and was named Indiana Miss Softball. She went on to play at Kentucky.