The end of the school year is a welcome respite for most students at South Whidbey High School. But, things are just gearing up for South Whidbey softball standout Mackenzee Collins.
The Cascade Conference defensive player of the year is competing in several national competitions this summer as a pitcher for the Puyallup-based Washington Ladyhawks 18U softball team. She traveled with the Ladyhawks to Atlanta, Ga. for the Atlanta Premier Girls Fastpitch national qualifier just a week after pitching for the Falcons at the class 1A state championships on May 26. The Ladyhawks successfully captured a national berth and will compete in the Premier Girls Fastpitch National tournament on July 22-28 in Huntington Beach, Calif. Collins is also traveling to Oregon, Colorado and Texas this month and the next to play in several other nationwide competitions.
Collins, 17, has aspirations of playing in front of live television audiences on a Division I college team someday. She’s already drawn interest from Boston University, Mississippi Valley State and Montana University.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Collins said. “…I want to play in college. I want people to want to come watch me.”
Collins threw 291 strikeouts in the regular season with an earned run average of 2.056. She also struck out 30 batters in three games at the state championships. Her batting average was also .329 during the season.
Mackenzee Collins said she was thrilled about being voted defensive player of the year by the coaches in the league. Collins said she earned her recognition as the league’s top defensive player through consistency. While she admittedly had a few performances below her expectations, they were few and far between.
“To get it junior year, it’s really an honor,” Collins said.
Her mother, Heather, is the Falcons’ stat keeper. Heather Collins said her daughter averaged two strikeouts per inning and struck out an average of nine batters before yielding a walk. She also committed only one fielding error this season. Heather Collins said Mackenzee’s speed has increased over the years, while she’s also been able to increase the variety of pitches in her arsenal. It’s clear to Heather Collins that her daughter is passionate about her craft.
“Pitching is her thing and she wants to become the best that she can be,” Heather Collins said.
If she is voted defensive player of the year again next year, Mackenzee Collins would be on the same level as one of her inspirations, Shelby Jeffries. Her former opponent from Sultan was named the league’s top defensive player in 2015 and 2016. Jeffries, who now pitches at Cal Poly, was effective because of her speed and movement and her poise on the mound. Collins sees similarities between herself and Jeffries.
“I don’t let things get to me,” Collins said. “It’s something I pride myself on. Whether I’m ahead by 10 or down by 10, you shouldn’t be able to tell. We’re both fast pitchers with movement.”
South Whidbey softball coach Alexandra Goheen said she sees greatness in Collins’ in future. Goheen said the summer will be the first step of many toward fulfilling her dream of being a Division I athlete.
“It all depends on how much she’s willing to grow in this next year,” Goheen said.
Despite her success this season, Heather and Mackenzee both know that there is still far more room to improve. They both understand that while even more work to an already busy schedule may seem arduous, it’s up to Mackenzee whether or not she becomes more dominant.
“I honestly think she needs to do more this offseason to get better if she would like to get back to state again,” Heather Collins said. “It’s on her. Mackenzee understands that she has to do it.”
“It takes a lot of dedication and hard work. I don’t think anybody realizes — probably not even the kids on her own team — how much time and effort that goes into it, and how many hours you sacrifice,” she added.
Her progression hasn’t come easy; Mackenzee Collins has sacrificed much of her free time over the years to attain her goal. She travels to Puyallup up to three times a week, while also practicing with her pitching coach Danica Anaya once a week. Mackenzee Collins won’t have a free weekend until the end of August. But, she didn’t hesitate when asked if it was all worth it.
“Yes,” Mackenzee Collins said. “It’s amazing.”