Senior Spotlight: Thomas Jefferson slugger ‘the epitome of what a team player is’

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Wednesday, May 6, 2020 | 10:20 AM


Editor’s note: Each day, Trib HSSN will spotlight WPIAL spring athletes whose senior years were cut short by the coronavirus pandemic.

Coming to terms with the new normal is half the battle for high school senior athletes who had their spring seasons ripped from their grasp.

The waves of fear have dissipated some.

Count softball slugger Mackenzie Zang of Thomas Jefferson among those who have accepted the harsh reality of the covid-19 crisis and begun to move on mentally.

One can still dream, right?

“Sometimes I feel like time is at a standstill and we will pick back up in a few weeks to play our normal season,” Zang said. “I think it’s because high school ball has become such an assumed part of my school years.”

Zang was clutch for Thomas Jefferson during her playing career, a rally-rouser who helped the Jaguars finish 15-5 and reach the WPIAL Class 4A semifinals. She drove in a team-best eight runs last season when there were two outs.

A versatile utility player who saw time in the outfield, third base and catcher, she batted a team-leading .463 overall with 25 hits, five doubles, two home runs, 23 runs and 24 RBIs.

“Mackenzie is one of a kind,” Thomas Jefferson coach Heidi Karcher said after last season. “She is the epitome of what a team player is.”

What have you done to pass the time during the lockdown?

I’ve mostly been passing the time with more softball. I hit off the tee a lot and work out so I can be game ready. Aside from softball, I’ve been doing many scholarship applications and keeping up with school work. My family also recently got a puppy, Murphy, and he keeps us very busy.

What kind of dog is Murphy? What do you like most about him?

Murphy is a lab-hound mix. He’s really sweet. He sleeps all the time and loves to hang out with us. He’s also really good for my older dog, Dunkun. They play well together. We think Murphy has put some pep in his step.

What travel team do you play for and do you think there will be a summer season?

I play for Team Pennsylvania 18U, coached by Kara Sroka. I’m not really sure if we will get to play. I try to stay positive, hoping we can get some games in. My team has been playing together for three years, so I would love to have those “lasts” with them.

Have you read any good books or watched any good movies during the down time?

For my English class, I just finished “The Invisible Man,” and I’m in the midst of reading “1984.” I just watched “The Godfather” the other day. It’s one of my dad’s favorites. It was interesting, but maybe a little intense for me.

What will be your lasting memories from Thomas Jefferson softball?

The TJ softball program leaves me with nothing but positive memories. I look back and remember at all the crazy bus rides, team dinners and exciting games. Our team always had so much fun together, especially this year. We had some great chemistry. Practices were so fun, thanks to the enthusiastic coaches, players and some loud music. For me and the seniors, I think we are always going to be left wondering about the type of season we would’ve had. I think it would’ve been really special.

The best memory I have from my four years is our playoff run in 2018. We went into the WPIAL playoffs as the No. 11 seed, and we upset every team we faced until we lost in the championship game. We then moved on to the PIAA state playoffs and traveled across the state for a few games. We finished in the final four, which was pretty amazing.

What’s something you’ve done during the quarantine that you never would have done or tried previously?

I was able to apply for 10-15 scholarships. I know it sounds cheesy, but I definitely wouldn’t have found the time to do nearly as many. This is easily the busiest time of the year, and this time around, I would’ve been adding on my job and preparation for college. I was excited to be able to apply in hopes of offsetting college tuition and student loans in the long run.

Have you been doing any cooking?

Actually, yes. I went through a phase where I was baking a different type of cookie every night.

Anything else you would like to add?

I do just want to say that one of the hardest pills to swallow was that I lost one of my last chances to play with my best friend, Bella Bucy. We’ve been playing together, and against each other, since we were 6 years old. We were so excited for this season because Bella worked really hard to recover from being injured last year. I was going to be her catcher this season and we were just so excited. We are on the same travel team, so I’m hoping we get to take the field together for the last time.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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