PITTSBORO — You might say former Northwood two-sport star Carson Shaner — now a junior on N.C. State University’s softball team — was simply carrying on her family’s rich …
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PITTSBORO — You might say former Northwood two-sport star Carson Shaner — now a junior on N.C. State University’s softball team — was simply carrying on her family’s rich athletic legacy at the Pittsboro school during her playing days for the Lady Chargers from 2014-17.
Shaner, the oldest of three children of John and Natalie Shaner, was born in Durham but has always called Pittsboro home. Younger sister Riley is a freshman at UNC-Charlotte — studying English and Education — while younger brother Jackson is a freshman at Northwood and a member of the school’s baseball and football squads, and the latest Shaner to grace a Northwood athletic roster.
The family’s athletic legacy dates back to Shaner’s grandfather, John R. “Jack” Shaner, who was Northwood’s first football coach from 1970-74 and returned to coach the Chargers on the gridiron from 1978-81. His son John — Carson Shaner’s dad — played football, basketball and baseball for Northwood, and went on to play baseball at UNC-Pembroke from 1988-91 following his 1987 graduation.
“I started playing softball when I was 5 years old and fell in love with it at a young age,” Carson Shaner told the News + Record. “Even though I played varsity basketball for three years at Northwood and really enjoyed my teammates, softball has always been my true passion.”
It showed. She was a four-year outfield starter for the Chargers and helped guide her team to a 74-18 record and a pair of Big Eight 3A Conference titles. In the process, she earned All-District and All-State recognition four times in addition to being selected three times to the All-Conference team. Shaner also received NFCA First-Team All-South and Third-Team All-American honors.
Shaner finished her career at Northwood as the program’s all-time leader with 16 home runs, including a school-record eight homers as a senior. She also holds the school’s single-season records for hits, RBIs, batting average and triples. She posted a .609 batting average as a senior, collecting 42 hits and 47 RBIs, scoring 36 runs with five doubles and 11 triples. She finished her career with a .420 batting average while collecting 103 hits and 98 runs batted in.
Her favorite moments from those days at Northwood?
Winning conference championships in both basketball and softball, she said, and helping athletic director Jason Amy organize a Special Olympics event along wither her PEPI (Physical Education Pupil Instructor) class.
Shaner committed to UNC-Wilmington as a sophomore year at Northwood, saying she fell in love with the campus while looking forward to playing with teammates she had met during her days of travel ball.
She saw action in 29 games with 10 starts as a freshman at UNC-W, batting .150 with eight runs batted in and three runs scored. In a game against East Carolina on March 13, 2018, Shaner hit a grand slam — marking her first career college home run.
As a sophomore in 2019, Shaner improved her batting average to .307 in 32 games played — including 21 starts in the outfield — and recorded 23 hits, 20 RBIs and 13 runs scored while notching six home runs on the season.
But by season’s end, she felt UNC-W wasn’t a productive environment for her anymore. In order to meet her full potential, she thought it was best to pursue other options.
Seeking a transfer, Shaner entered her name into the portal and was immediately contacted by a number of colleges, including ACC schools and others both in and out of state. She eventually decided on N.C. State.
“I believed that was the best fit for my future because I felt appreciated there and I really liked the coaches and my teammates,” she said.
After donning a Wolfpack uniform to begin the 2020 season, Shaner appeared in 21 of 25 games, including 10 starts at second base or as a designated hitter. Her first four hits of the season were home runs, including two as a pinch hitter. She amassed a .650 slugging percentage and ranked fourth on the team with five home runs before the season was brought to an abrupt halt by the coronavirus outbreak.
“I can still remember hearing our season was put on hold,” Shaner said. “We were on our way to Blacksburg, Virginia, on March 12 to play a series with Virginia Tech when we got the word, and later found out the rest of the season was cancelled.”
N.C State was having the best start in the program’s history at the time — a 19-6 overall record with a six-game winning streak and a perfect 3-0 conference record. The team was looking forward to the ACC championships, which were set to begin next week in Louisville, Kentucky.
“I’m sad we didn’t get to finish what we started,” Shaner said. “But looking at the big picture I know it was the best decision for everyone’s safety, and then the NCAA decided to grant Division 1 spring athletes another year of eligibility, which meant some of our seniors would be returning next year if they chose to do so.”
So what’s next for Shaner?
An ACC title, she hopes. For the time being, though, she’s doing at-home workouts and throwing and hitting with her father and brother.
“Even during these uncertain times I have to keep working hard because I want to be ready when we can get back on the field,” she said. “I will try to get stronger, get in a lot of defensive reps and hit as much as possible, since the more I can do over the summer, the more prepared I will be for my team when play does resume.”
The Sport Management major says she’s added a minor in Sports Science, and plans to take summer courses at N.C. State to stay on track for graduation.
“I hope to go to grad school and pursue a further degree in Sport Management or one in Physical Therapy, and one day I would love to go into coaching,” said Shaner.
Given her family’s legacy, there’s little question she’d be a natural.