Russell named Second-Team All-State

By on June 17, 2015

 

Warwick sophomore Mackenzie Russell batted .494 with a team-high 40 base hits this spring while being named to the Pennsylvania High School Softball Association’s All-State Second-Team. (Lititz Record file photo)

Warwick sophomore Mackenzie Russell batted .494 with a team-high 40 base hits this spring while being named to the Pennsylvania High School Softball Association’s All-State Second-Team. (Lititz Record file photo)

In the off-season prior to the 2015 campaign, Warwick softball coach Mark Hough challenged his second baseman Mackenzie Russell to get stronger.

“Last year, there were a lot of times when Mackenzie would swing at the ball and everything was kinda late and she would foul everything off to the third base side and she never really could pull the ball through the infield,” Hough recalled. “She had maybe a little chip on her shoulder to prove me wrong (this season) and she did.”

Her numbers prove it.

Batting a team-high .494 out of the leadoff spot, Russell was a key cog for the Lady Warriors (19-3) in their run to the Section One championship and the L-L semi-finals while earning the No. 1 seed in the District Three Quad-A playoffs.

The sophomore sparkplug was rewarded for her hard work last week when she was named to the Pennsylvania High School Softball Association’s All-State Second-Team in Class AAAA.

The PA High School Softball Coaches Association will release their selections in early July.

“I didn’t actually think that I made it to be honest,” Russell said. “I’m proud, but I try not to let it blow my head up too big because I don’t want it to phase me when I play.”

There wasn’t much that phased her this spring. In addition to her team-high 40 base hits, Russell tied for second with 28 runs, while adding 17 RBI’s, six doubles and one triple.

“She really excelled this year with her slapping ability,” Hough said. “Depending on the situation, there were about three different styles we worked on with her when she was in the box. I mean, it was like she was just always putting the ball in play. That’s the kind of stuff that just really made her a special leadoff person.”

If not for a nice play by Elizabethtown’s center fielder in an 8-0 Lady Warrior win on April 17, robbing Russell of a 4-for-4 day, her average easily could have been over .500.

“The ball that she hit to the left-center gap, I thought for sure that thing was going to drop,” Hough said. “She took the ball a foot or two off the ground and robbed Mackenzie of what probably would have been a double or triple.”

Russell did, however, go a perfect 4-for-4 with four RBI’s and two runs in Warwick’s 10-0 non-league win over Lampeter-Strasburg on April 1.

“Before playing L-S, coach Heather (Hess) came up to me and said how this season, I really have to step up and be a leader out there because I set the tone for everyone else,” Russell said. I went 4-for-4, we all worked together as a team and once that happened, I kept doing what I was doing because I knew what I did reflected on everybody else.”

“Without question,” Hough said, “(Mackenzie) is really a sparkplug.”

Her work in the off-season certainly played a key role in her success not only at the top of the order, but in the middle of the infield with senior shortstop Vanessa Strohm, committing just two errors in 57 total chances for a .965 fielding percentage.

Her routine consists of going to the gym four times a week &tstr; sometimes twice daily. Outside of the gym, Russell also devotes energy to running.

“When my dad told me that (coach Hough) wanted me to get stronger, I took that as a compliment because I knew he was expecting a lot out of me,” Russell said. “I’m still getting stronger and better trying to live up to what he wants me to do because I know he expects a lot out of me.”

It wasn’t just physically where Russell got better and stronger. Under the guidance of coaches Hess and Sam Derr, who insisted on the infielders getting dirty diving for balls, her defense was a strength.

“Sam and Heather are very old-school players,” Hough said. “It’s the type of thing where they get very frustrated when a ground ball goes through the infield that really shouldn’t have gone through, and they said, ‘The ground is soft, you can get dirty.’ A lot of times, we would just do diving drills (in practice). It was nothing I ran. They would hit ground balls to (the infielders) and they were getting upset if they were making the best possible effort to get the balls.”

Those drills were evident in Warwick’s nine-inning 8-2 win over Section rival Manheim Township.

“At one point, there was a ball lined up the middle,” Hough recalled. “Mack dove for it and caught it, but Vanessa was diving for it as well. There was a pile of dust, they both fell over each other, and Mack got up with the ball in her glove. I looked at Sam and Heather and said, ‘If you guys didn’t work on that, we would have never made that play.’ Again, I attribute the success not only to the kids, but Heather and Sam really don’t get enough of a pat on the back for how hard they work in practice with those kids.”

With her selection to the All-State Second Team, Russell got a nice pat on the back in her own right.

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