June 21, 2017
By Brad Muller | More Features
It’s not unprecedented for a freshman to make an immediate impact on the softball diamond. However, when a rookie takes on a leadership role as an everyday player while leading the team in nearly every offensive category, as was the case with South Carolina second baseman Mackenzie Boesel, coaches and fans have to be excited about the future.
“I always have high expectations for myself to perform well,” Boesel said. “I definitely exceeded my expectations, especially in the home run department. I’m not typically a home run hitter, but I always expect to perform well and help out my team.”
“I think her transition to Division I softball was really smooth,” said head coach Beverly Smith. “She was a kid that I knew had really good bat control. When I was recruiting her, she was always a tough out. I knew she would be an everyday player for us. Initially, I thought she would be a good hitter near the bottom of the lineup because she would be a bat-for-average kid. What surprised me the most was the power.”
Boesel was one of three Gamecocks to start every game of the season, and she more than held her own by leading the team in nearly every offensive category, including the triple crown of batting average (.341), home runs (10), and RBI (41) while helping South Carolina reach the NCAA Tournament for the fifth-straight year, and 20th time overall.
“That’s great, and it surprised me,” Boesel said. “I’m just glad I was able to contribute to my team anyway I can. I really didn’t pay attention to the numbers during the season. It is good to know that my hard work paid off in the end.”
“She gets up there and swings hard,” Smith said. “I think the strength and conditioning program really helped. I think she is someone who will continue to hit for a good average and get on base, and the power numbers will come with having great at bats.”
I want her to take some of those young players under her wing and tell them ‘this is how we do things here.'
Her 10 home runs and .441 on-base percentage were freshman records for South Carolina, and she posted the fifth-best batting average, sixth-most runs, fifth-most hits, and second-most RBI by a Gamecock rookie.
“The hardest part about transitioning from high school to college was keeping a strong mentality in knowing that I belong here and worked for this,” Boesel said. “It’s about staying confident and believing in myself, even if I’m not doing well.
“The coaches and the senior leadership that we had really helped me to make the transition from high school to college and how to deal with the long season, extra pressure and better pitching. The family atmosphere really helped me from getting homesick throughout the year, which could have affected my performance.”
South Carolina went into the 2017 season with the luxury of some depth around the infield, but an early season injury to starting shortstop Kenzi Maguire left little margin for error. Boesel had already earned a spot at second base, and there was not any pressure in relying on the freshman every day as the remaining infield positions were locked in place.
“I didn’t feel more pressure,” Boesel said. “Even though Kenzi wasn’t able to play because of her injury, she still helped me and others in the infield. She taught us how to be quicker in different situations. She helped me stay calm and confident.”
“I wasn’t worried about everybody’s ability to hold their own,” Smith said. “My only worry was what if we had another injury? We really had a stellar defense.”
As Boesel prepares for her sophomore season, she’s ready to transition again, this time into a leadership role.
“I just want to keep improving and make my numbers even better than they were this year,” Boesel said. “I want to improve in every aspect of my game and turn my weaknesses that I had this year into strengths for next year.
“Next year, I think I can help the freshmen about what I learned coming in to help them along in their transition, just like our seniors did for me this year.”
“We had a lot of senior leadership last year, and we’ve got a big group of freshmen coming in this year,” Smith said. “I want her to take some of those young players under her wing and tell them ‘this is how we do things here.’”
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