Freshmen pitching/catching duo help Patriots succeed
By Kyle LoJacono
Freedom softball pitcher Grace Street and catcher Kayla Maczuga appear like veterans.
They are both batting better than .350 and have played in every inning of every game for the Patriots (10-4). The two make the right decisions and execute their plays and pitches without drawing attention to themselves.
They sound like four-year starters, but both are freshmen still getting used to life in high school.
“They’ve really stepped up,” said sophomore outfielder Ashley Wilson. “We needed them to step up and they’ve done that. Grace is pitching and hitting like a senior and so is Kayla at the plate. I give them both a round of applause for what they’ve done.”
There was a lot of pressure for both to perform this season. Freedom lost its catcher and all of its pitchers to graduation or transfers, forcing Grace to throw every pitch of every inning this season; all received by Maczuga behind the plate.
They have responded.
Grace, who said her best pitches are a curveball and changeup, is hitting a team-high .520 with 16 RBI while posting an 10-4 record, 2.11 ERA and 64 strikeouts. Maczuga is batting .386 with nine RBI.
“I have to remind myself pretty much constantly that Grace is a freshman,” said Patriots coach Autum Hernandez. “She’s leading our team in batting. A couple games ago against Gaither she had five RBI. She has definitely put a quiet spark in the team. She comes to practice every day and puts in the work without saying much. She never complains. She’s not playing like a freshman.
“We expect a lot from our catcher,” continued Hernandez, who was a catcher at Robinson. “To us it’s never the pitcher’s fault; it’s the catcher’s fault. Kayla takes a lot of that brunt and handles it well. She sets high expectations for herself. When she makes a mistake she harps on herself. We don’t have to say much to her about it.”
The duo has benefited from having some history together. They both played on the U10 New Tampa Spirit, an AAU travel team.
“It’s been very helpful,” Street said. “Getting to know your catcher and a catcher getting to know their pitcher is very key. … I trust her. I trust that she’s going to catch anything I throw. Whenever a pitch goes wild I know she’ll be there.”
Maczuga said the talks that happen naturally between a pitcher and catcher also helped form a bond.
“She’s a very quiet person,” Maczuga said. “She doesn’t talk constantly to everyone on the team, but when we’re pitching and catching we’ll talk about how things are going. I think those conversations have helped.”
Maczuga has been impressed with Street’s work ethic.
“She’s doing really great,” Maczuga said. “She’s working as hard as juniors and seniors, and she’s keeping up with them. It makes everyone else want to work harder.”
Hernandez is happy the large question marks around the pitcher and catcher positions have been removed and replaced by consistency.
“It’s really nice to have them do what they’ve done at such a young age,” Hernandez said. “We lost a lot from last year, and they’ve brought a lot of stability to the team.”
–All stats as recorded to Maxpreps.com by coaches