Versatile Mackenzie Zang helps lift TJ softball into playoffs

Friday, May 17, 2019 | 8:03 PM

Her name might be last on the alphabet chart, but her hitting style ranks first on her team.

Junior utility player Mackenzie Zang led the Thomas Jefferson softball team in hitting during the regular season with a .463 batting average. She finished with a team-high 25 hits in 54 at-bats, including, five doubles, one triple and two homers. She scored 23 runs and drove in 24, including a team-best eight RBIs with two outs.

Zang, batting second in the lineup, also racked up a .704 slugging percentage.

“Mackenzie is one of a kind. She is the epitome of what a team player is,” said Heidi Karcher, the Jaguars’ veteran coach. “She’s a great utility player and will play anywhere you ask her to. She can play anywhere other than pitcher. She’s also a very respectful student and has a great personality.”

Thomas Jefferson (14-3, 9-3) landed its fourth consecutive WPIAL playoff berth and fifth in six years by finishing second in Section 2-4A. The Jaguars won their final four regular-season games and eight of their last nine.

“I’m really proud of the regular season we had this year,” Zang said. “Even though we had a few hiccups along the way, I think we did a great job of not letting those losses affect our future games. I think the main goal for us this postseason is to, obviously, make a run but to also stick to the basics in doing so.”

Although termed a utility player, Zang started the season playing left field. She also saw time at catcher before settling in at third base.

“I am pretty proud of my offensive performance this season,” Zang said, “but I’m relatively new to the infield and I’m still working on my performance there. For travel ball, my primary position is catcher, and I also play in the outfield.”

Zang competed in volleyball in eighth and ninth grade but has concentrated solely on softball in high school. She began her softball career in first grade.

“Fun fact: Coach Heidi was my coach for my first year of fastpitch softball in my second year of 10U,” Zang said. “I was petrified when I learned it was ‘kid-pitch.’ ”

The Jaguars hit .351 this season, reached double digits nine times, and averaged 9.2 runs, with one other player joining Zang in the coveted .400 Club. Senior catcher Haleigh Karcher batted .417 in her fourth year as a starter.

Other top hitters for the Jaguars included sophomore 1B Lily Rockwell (.386), junior SS Abby Chalovich (.362), sophomore 2B Paige Truax (.356), freshman OF Graci Fairman (.347) and junior pitcher Bella Bucy (.300).

Two players on the cusp of the .300 mark were outfielders Claire Whalen (.283), a sophomore, and Bella Regna (.281), a junior.

Karcher, a West Chester recruit, led the team in RBIs with 27, and, like Zang, collected 25 hits, including three home runs. She had a .650 slugging percentage.

Chalovich was the team leader in runs with 24, as the Jaguars outscored the opposition by a 157-67 margin, had a .521 slugging percentage as a team, and averaged almost a home run per game with 12.

Rockwell led the club with a .737 slugging percentage, collected a team-high four home runs and eight doubles and drove in 17 runs.

Bucy posted a 7-2 record, 2.94 ERA and 1.11 WHIP. In 62 innings, the left-hander allowed 53 hits, 26 earned runs and 16 walks while fanning 55.

Karcher also was 3-1 in the circle, with freshmen Brianna Kibe (2-0) and Jessica Lee (1-0) and junior Tyler Turk (1-0) picking up the Jaguars’ four other victories.

The team ERA stood at 3.36, and the pitching staff had four shutouts.

The Jaguars drew a first-round bye as the fourth seed in the WPIAL Class 4A playoffs.

“I’m super excited for the playoffs,” Zang said. “The team really comes together as a family in both the wins and the losses.”


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