We continue our list of the Top 15 Softball Stories of 2018, which will run through December 31st when we’ll present our No. 1 story of the year.
We’ve surveyed the softball community and talked internally as well to come up with what were the most impactful and relevant stories in 2018 pertaining to the world of fastpitch softball.
Here are the previous stories:
- #15… Alexia Carrasquillo: The Shot Heard Round the Recruiting World (Dec. 17, 2018)
- #14… Ashley Rogers Overcomes Tragedy to Become National Player of the Year
- #13… High School Senior Sydney Supple Approaching $100K To Build Hometown Field of Dreams
- #12… NFCA’s StrikeOut Cancer Initiative Provides Unity & Half Million-Plus For Research
- #11… There’s Rage in Them Cajuns…. Michael Lotief Firing at ULL Sparks Pushback from Coach & Players
- #10… Controversy at TC/USA Nationals As Championship Team Disqualified
- #9… Mike Stith Wins Club Title & Pro Championship In Same Season
- #8… Team USA Looks Unstoppable Heading Towards 2020 Olympics
- #7… The South Shall Rise Again (Is The West No Longer The Dominant Region?)
Today is #6 and involves one of the most horrific aspects of American society in modern times: school shootings. We saw first-hand how it impacted a current SEC player, freshman catcher Jackie McKenna, earlier this year and former Extra Inning Softball 1st Team All-American. Her story is a dramatic and gripping one, ultimately involving the heroism of her family and we also hear from her how she's doing today….
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The year 2018 was a record-setting one in one statistical category that we hope will never be approached again: school shooting incidents.
As of mid-December, there were 93 school shooting incidents and, according to one study, was the worst year on record for gun violence in American schools.
The previous record was 59 in 2006.
The softball community wasn’t exempt from the violence; in February, we ran a chilling story involving the Parkland, Florida shooting where 17 were killed and 17 others injured at Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day.
Thanks to Kevin O’Donnell, the head of the Jersey Intensity travel organization and a long-time friend, we were able to reach out to one of the top seniors in his organization, Jackie McKenna, who had signed the previous November to play at Mississippi State.
Jackie would go on to have an All-American senior season as she earned 1st Team Extra Inning Softball honors and Florida 9A Defensive Player of the Year recognition as she compiled a .987 fielding percentage with only one error all season while batting .556 with 30 RBI.
As detailed in our story below, Jackie heard the gunshots and her brother, Chris, was instrumental in saving perhaps dozens of lives as he fled the school grounds, called his father--a Drug Enforcement Agent--and helped bring authorities to the school much earlier than possibly would have happened otherwise.
We caught up with Jackie today to see how she’s fared since that awful day last winter and in our brief conversation she showed the great poise and calm under pressure that she attributes to “being the daughter of a federal agent.”
Jackie explained that she’s home on Christmas Break and returns to Mississippi State on January 5th “ready to do our best to make it to the Women’s College World Series. We’re doing well and look like we have a solid team.”
The freshman says the shooting incident is on her mind constantly.
“I still think about it every day,” she admits. “Right when it happened, we had team counseling sessions and softball kept me busy. It was the worst day ever, I have to keep living with it and what really helped was going to Mississippi State and practicing with my teammates.”
Jackie says meeting new people has helped her process what she experienced.
“It’s been great meeting new people, my team has been great as they all know my story and have been so supportive.”
The catcher says she’s been back to the school to watch her high school team practice and it’s been a surreal experience.
“It’s really different physically,” she states. “There are more fences and it’s more secure. There are signs up around the school from other schools comforting us. The building (where most of the shootings happened) is still there.”
Her brother, deservedly, was recognized for his part in alerting authorities and, according to Jackie, “did a of lot of interviews where he told his story. The New York Times and CNN came down to Florida.”
Three months after the Stoneman Douglas High shooting, 10 students were killed at Santa Fe (Texas) High by a school shooter.
“Every day it seems something else new is happening,” Jackie concludes. “Nothing has been done to change it, it seems. For me, I’m just grateful I have softball to help me get through it.”
--- Brentt Eads, Extra Inning Softball
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