Though it has only been four games, Mackenzie Collins has put up better numbers this season than at any time in her four-year varsity career.
The senior outfielder and pitcher was hitting .500 when the N.C. High School Athletic Association suspended the season on March 13 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“My batting has gotten better,” she said. “It’s the best I’ve ever had, even though its four games. I worked on it.”
Collins hit .343 as a junior, .307 as a sophomore and .297 as a freshman. She began her career as a speedster on the base paths, ranking first on the team as a sophomore in runs (28) and stolen bases (eight) after ranking third in runs (20) and second in stolen bases (five) as a freshman.
In her junior campaign, she got on the mound a bit, sporting a 2.52 ERA in 16 2/3 innings.
She’s helped West win three of its four straight 3A Coastal Conference championships with the last two coming in undefeated fashion.
“I think sometimes we take winning conference for granted,” she said. “We have a target on our backs now.”
In her senior season, she’s already pitched 12 innings, registering a 1.17 ERA with 21 strikeouts and eight walks in relief work.
“I worked a lot harder this year,” she said. “I knew they needed me with losing Brie (Caldwell) and a freshman coming in. It wasn’t my intention to pitch. I was trying to play outfield as much as I could because that is what I want to play, but you have to do what you have to do to support your team.”
Collins pitched in middle school but thought and hoped those days were behind her.
“I was done with it,” she said. “I pitched every inning of every game for two years.”
In the season-opening 8-4 win over East Carteret, she struck out five and walked one in three innings. She then struck eight and walked two in four innings of a 5-1 win over Dixon and struck out seven while walking two in a 5-3 victory over Pamlico.
“The first game was kind of rocky to start off with, but we pulled it through, and after that, we’ve done pretty well,” she said.
The Patriots were scheduled to play Jacksonville on April 7 when the NCHSAA was supposed to lift the suspension, one day after school was to reconvene,. however, N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper announced Monday that school has now been suspended until May 15 instead of April 6.
“It’s kind of disappointing,” Collins said. “We were on a roll. If the suspension is lifted, I hope we can come back the way we were, and that this break doesn’t keep us from living up to our potential.”
However, with each passing day, it seems more and more unlikely the spring season will ever continue.
“We’re going to keep practicing,” Collins said. “Hopefully we can come back. I want to. We’ve worked so hard for this.”
With coaches not allowed to supervise workouts, the senior has taken on the role of team mom in unofficial practices.
“I provide the snacks and the hair bands,” she said. “We’ve been getting together on a rec field and practicing to keep from getting rusty. But it’s getting more difficult. It’s getting to the point where all of us aren’t allowed outside the house.”
Collins is one of four seniors on a roster with five freshmen.
“We’ve got a lot of younger kids, so the seniors are trying to set a good example,” she said. “Sometimes it’s hard with what is going on, because we don’t know what to do because it’s never happened before.”
An aggressive player on the field, Collins had to convince some of her younger teammates she could be a mentor.
“Some of them said they couldn’t believe I was nice,” she said with a laugh. “I’m just a different person on the field. I’m not mean to anyone. Plus, I don’t understand what is so mean about a 5-3 person. What is so intimidating about that? I’m so short.”
A standout student with a 3.74 GPA, she someday soon will again be one of the freshmen on the team when she joins the UNC-Pembroke softball squad. Collins has verbally committed to the Division II program. However, her official campus visit has been postponed due to the coronavirus.
“I like the coach. She is very nice, like a friend,” Collins said. “And the campus isn’t huge, so you don’t worry about getting lost.”
She’s already set on a major, planning on studying athletic training.
“It’s not all about sports. It’s about academics as well,” she said. “I’ve known since my freshman year that I want to be an athletic trainer. I’ve taken a lot of health sciences, and I realized I really liked it, and I excelled at it. I love sports so much, I want to stay around it.”
Here are a few of Collins’ favorite things, as well as her ideal groups with which to eat dinner and survive a zombie apocalypse and the five items she would take with her on a deserted island:
Favorite Movie: “Step Brothers.”
Favorite TV Show: “The Office.”
Favorite Cartoon: “SpongeBob SquarePants.”
Favorite Band: Queen.
Favorite Song: “Devil” by Shinedown.
Favorite Book: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart.
Favorite Team: Oklahoma Sooners.
Favorite Athlete: Sydney Romero.
Favorite Vacation: Going to the mountains.
Favorite Hobby: Watching movies.
Favorite Subject: Health science.
Favorite Quote: “For the love of the game.”
Favorite Food: Pizza.
Favorite Drink: Sweet tea.
Favorite Restaurant: LongHorn Steakhouse.
Favorite Season: Spring.
Favorite Sports Memory: Hitting two home runs in one game.
Favorite Teacher: Ms. Lucille Melby.
Favorite Sport: Softball.
Favorite Pre-Game/Post-Game Ritual: Listening to rock music.
Favorite Website/App: TikTok.
Ideal Dinner Guest List: Elizabeth Greeson, my mother, my father, my sister, my grandma.
Ideal Group to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse: Elizabeth Greeson, Makenzie Burroughs, Anna Keith Sullivan, Hydee Kugler, Mollie Gould and coach Jess.
Items For A Deserted Island: Matches, water, food, a weapon and clothes.