By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
The St. Joseph Central softball team is off to its best start in recent memory.
At 10-1 overall and riding a six-game winning streak, the Indians have played well in all phases. They've scored 10 or more runs five times and have shut out four opponents.
For fourth-year head coach Kendra Hodgin, the reasons for this success are pretty straight forward.
"Clean defense and we put the ball in play," she said. "If we can do those two things, clean defense behind Mackenzie (Garr) pitching. As for our offense, it's like I said - put the ball in play and good things will happen. That's what I tell them all the time and that's what we're doing. So, hopefully that continues."
Junior starting pitcher Mackenzie Garr has also been a critical piece to the puzzle. After not starting any games in 2020, she's been the go-to starter this season. Garr has held seven teams to three runs or less, and has only allowed one home run thus far.
"I've improved a lot," Garr said. "I throw more strikes. I have more accuracy this year."
Hodgin says clean defense has also been big for Garr's confidence in the circle.
"She throws strikes," Hodgin said of Garr. "You know, even if they put it in play, we have clean defense behind Mackenzie that field the ball well for her, and work hard for her behind her. So, we need her to pitch balls that can be hit, put in play, keep them inside the park and no walks. She's kept her walks to a minimum."
Garr says it's the encouragement she receives from coaches and teammates that keeps her confident and focused from game-to-game.
"I always have people giving me support," Garr said. "They would tell me that 'I can do this.' They always tell me 'throw only strikes,' and I try my best."
Offensively, Central returns six starters, including senior and center fielder Myah Dwyer. While she notes the team's offensive consistency and confidence, she's also noticed a tighter bond with this group - something that's perhaps been lacking in the last few seasons.
"Honestly, I think our chemistry has been a really big thing," Dwyer said. "In the past years, I feel like we've kind of just had our little cliques here and there. This year, I really feel like we're super close and we're really a family this year."
Sophomore and second baseman Zoe Trotter has burst onto the scene this year, recording numerous multi-hit games already. She says this Indians team is one that not only works hard, but works well together.
"We really do work together," she said. "We find ways to make things work throughout the season. We really just work well together. We all kind of bonded right away and...we just work."
Hodgin has a group of six seniors on her roster - three of whom are four-year starters. Now in her fourth season at the helm, Hodgin has seen immense growth from her team since she first came to Central in 2018.
"This is the fourth season with me and I feel like they're buying into that," Hodgin said. "They're buying into each other, so we're just continuing to build on that. They're believing in each other and what we're doing at practice and making things happen."
Central has 10 games left in September. They'll also take part in the Kewpie Classic tournament and the Benton Varsity tournament in early October before district play starts October 12.
The Indians are a member of Class 5 District 8 - a grouping that includes Liberty, Liberty North and Staley - all three of those teams are at least four games above .500.
Much like the Central volleyball team, which is off to a 4-1 start and is seeking its first district title this year, the Indians' softball team would love nothing more than to give their own program its first ever district crown.
Long way to go, but so far, Central has looked the part.
"I think it's pretty great having female sports kind of leading your school at the moment," Trotter said. "I think it's very empowering to some of the girls out there who are watching us volleyball players and us softball players. It's really cool to have something like that happen."
Hear the audio version of this story on Thursday at 7:20 a.m., 12:50 p.m. and 5:45 p.m. on KFEQ Radio (680 AM, 95.3 FM, 680kfeq.com).
You can follow Tommy on Twitter @TommyKFEQ and St. Joseph Post @StJosephPost.