Sophomore slugger makes name for herself in middle of Penn-Trafford lineup
Wednesday, June 8, 2022 | 4:58 PM
Mackenzie Keenan has a number of nicknames.
The sophomore softball player at Penn-Trafford has been called “Chuck” and “Chunk” for reasons that can’t altogether be explained around the clubhouse.
“We always call her, ‘Line-drive Mack,’” Warriors coach Denny Little said. “Everything she hits is a frozen rope.”
Keenan, pronounced ka-nan, likes the monikers.
“It’s all right,” she said. “I really don’t like the name Mackenzie, to be honest.”
Another nickname has greater meaning to her than the others, though. Her grandmother called her “Mack,” perhaps the most common of her tags.
“She came to all of my games,” Keenan said. “She would always cheer for me.”
Her viewing was Friday, the day of the game, but Keenan decided after careful consideration that it would be best to play.
“That is what she would have wanted me to do,” Keenan said. “She’d want me to be there.”
Keenan attended the funeral Saturday and, after saying her final goodbye to a woman she was so close to, decided to play in her memory.
“We had some relatives here,” she said. “My grandpap and my mom’s cousin from Chicago came to see me play, so that was nice. I want to keep winning for her. She told me to have fun and cherish all the time with my team.”
Her father, Jason Keenan, an assistant coach for Penn-Trafford who did not attend the WPIAL final, wanted Mack to play.
“I had no reservations,” he said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I wanted her to have one speed and keep going.”
Mack Keenan grew up as a catcher. It is her natural position. But she is playing behind senior Maddy Rapp, so she often is the designated player.
She went 3 for 4 Monday in a 3-1 win over Twin Valley in the PIAA first round.
Penn-Trafford (19-3) will meet District 11 champion Southern Lehigh (19-6) in Thursday’s quarterfinal at Norlo Park in Fayetteville near Chambersburg.
The winner moves on to Monday’s semifinals.
“We started off slow (Monday), but I think that had something to do with their pitcher,” Keenan said. “We adjusted better toward the end.”
With that being said, Keenan allows Little to use two catchers, a page out of longtime Hempfield coach Bob Kalp’s book of strategy.
“She will be our catcher next year,” Little said of Keenan. “I can put on her the lineup card to start, then make the switch to (Rapp) with two outs. That allows her to be the catcher of record so I can run for her.”
Got all of that?
Bottom line: Keenan is very valuable to the Warriors, who are chasing their second PIAA title in four years.
The No. 1-ranked student in Penn-Trafford’s Class of 2024 — she wants to major in biomedical engineering — Keenan also brings plenty of intelligence to the diamond, a complement to that heavy bat of hers.
Keenan is a tough out because she is so aggressive. To pitchers, it’s like arm-wrestling Popeye after he’s had his spinach. You lose your grip early in the count and she is going to club one to the gap.
“She reminds of Megan and Emma (Little),” coach Little said. “She goes after it. She is our most consistent hitter. She has 70 mph bat speed and 73 mph exit velocity.”
Keenan is in attack mode from the second she steps inside the box. The Warriors like to get big innings going with a “Mack Attack.”
She is hitting .468, second on the team, and is tied for the team lead with 29 hits to go with 13 RBIs.
She has batted seventh, fifth and now third in the lineup.
“We talk about having a two-strike approach,” Keenan said. “For me, the best approach is not to get two strikes. I go for the first pitch I like.
“If I strike out, it’s probably a really bad whiff.”
Keenan has a WPIAL title with the field hockey team, as do several teammates who also play that sport. Her sister, Madison, is a three-time WPIAL field hockey champion but does not play softball.
“I started playing softball when I was 8, for the P-T Power,” Keenan said. “It was something to do but it became super fun.”
That meant cheerleading went by the wayside. But her grandma was there to play that part.
Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .
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