One last go-around
by Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor Photos: Geoff Schneider/Sports Union This was supposed to be her year. One final go around before heading off to college. For some athletes the dream stops after high school. Not that they aren’t talented enough to play at the next level, but maybe they have decided to choose a different path. Open up a second chapter of their life and move up to another blank page. For some, this year should have been their most memorable. You can never get a senior year back. It’s a chance to to hang with your teammates once last time. Go for one more run at the title. Make a lasting impression at the school. This year, however, there was no senior year for St. Mary’s High School softball player Kenzie Jensen. The virus that has plagued the world took away any chance she had of enjoying once last go-around with a team that she has bonded with over the past four years.
To make things worse for Jensen, it may have been the last time she ever put on a softball uniform. As Jensen gets ready for the next part of her journey she may do it not playing softball. Jensen will be heading to Niagara University to continue her academic career. While she hasn’t ruled out playing softball for the club team at Niagara, there is a strong chance she played her last meaningful game back during her junior year. That’s a pretty sober feeling. “I have been playing ball since I was a little kid, 4 years old. By considering the possibility that I may not be able to play my senior year was heartbreaking. I’ve put so much passion, effort, and time into this sport that I love, and not being able to play one last time with my teammates is crushing,” stated Jensen. “We have always focused on the goal of winning the state title, and this year I believe that we had the utmost potential. Although I have not completely ruled out playing club ball, not playing at the collegiate level makes this even more difficult. It’s devastating that I may never play competitive ball ever again. I wish that I would have known that the last time we had all practiced together, may have been the end of my high school career. This entire situation has made me realize that you cannot take anything for granted, and always be appreciative for the little things in life.” Those little things was playing with some of the best talent in Western New York. Over the past four years, the Lancers have sent numerous young ladies onto play at the college level, including at the highest level - Division I. Playing with the type of talent everyday only made Jensen better. But, she was no slouch either. Jensen could hold her own against her friends and could even teach them a few things. The one thing that made St. Mary’s so good over the years wasn’t just the talent on the field.
It helped that all the girls checked their egos at the door, and rallied together for one common to goal - to the Monsignor Martin, and Catholic state titles. “I have played with numerous talented players over my time at St. Mary’s. Just to name a few who have previously graduated, Erin Hufford (Canisius), MacKenzie Suto (Hofstra), and Caitlin Bish (Princeton). Also some of my fellow seniors, Maggie Kellner and Hannah Kwasneiski (Niagara), Torrie Jenkins (Cleveland State), Jessica Sheffield (Gannon), Ava Miller (D'youville), and even Riley Maliki, although she is playing hockey at Chatham,” stated Jensen.” Every single one of these players are so incredibly talented, and they inspire me to work harder to become the best player that I can be. They have all challenged me to improve my skills and mentality. By playing with these great athletes, I have learned how they prepare in the offseason, and what it takes to be a top caliber player. I’ve been blessed to play with countless D1 athletes, and I’ve witnessed the amount of work and dedication that goes into playing at that competitive level.” Jensen is a thinker on the field. You can tell by watching her play. She also like to over think when she gets in the batters box. Who could ever forget Crash Davis, in the movie Bull Durham, standing in the on deck circle waiting to come to bat. As he stepped in the batter box you can hear him thinking to himself on what kind of pitch he is looking for from the pitcher. If they pitcher was going to start him off with the hook he was going to take it downtown. Those are the types of things players, like Jensen, think about when getting into the box. Over the years, Jensen has had to try and not over think as much. See the ball, hit ball. It’s easier said than done.
“A typical at bat for myself may be a little different from others. I tend to get in my head a lot, and overthink situations. However, over the years, my coaches and teammates have helped me to gain confidence in myself to get the job done. Coach Rappl has always been one of the biggest contributors to this. He always gives me encouraging words to ensure that my mentality is in the right place,” stated Jensen. “I’ve always been told, “see the ball, hit the ball” and “wait for the right pitch,” which helps me to focus on what is most important. Coach Kevin has always been strategic with play calling, so I always have to be ready for whatever sign he may give me in the box and be ready to execute. This is another reason why playing on this team has been so enjoyable over the years; coach is always a step or two ahead of the opposing team.” As her time has come to an end, Jensen is able to look back fondly on her four years at St. Mary’s. Sure there is all the softball memories that she will cherish for the rest of her life, but there is also the life lessons she learned over the four years. All the friends she has made over time has helped her grow as a person. Being part of a tight-knit team, like the softball team, is something that Jensen won’t ever take for grant it. There were times the softball people even became like a second family. “My career at St. Mary’s has made such a huge impact on my life. Before I even came to St. Mary’s, I would take lessons with Coach Kevin at softball central, and he would always make me feel so welcomed,” stated Jensen. “I automatically knew that St. Mary’s would be the best fit for me. Over the years, my “team” grew to become my “family.” We have all been such a tight knit group who have shared the love of the game. Coach Kevin, Coach Rappl, Missy Hufford, and my teammates have always supported me, and without them, I would not be the player I am today.”