ESPNBoston.com and its High Schools staff today announce Mackenzie Phillips, senior righthanded pitcher of the Turners Falls High School Indians, is the recipient of its sixth annual "Miss Softball" award, honoring the top high school player in Massachusetts.
Phillips was selected from among a panel of ESPNBoston.com staff and correspondents. Phillips is the first Turners Falls player to receive the honor. She will be presented with the Miss Softball Award at a time and date to be determined later.
"I have had the pleasure to work with some terrific kids at Turners Falls but Mackenzie's dedication to her sport is second to none," said Indians legendary head coach Gary Mullins. "Days often started with her working out at 5:30 a.m. in the gym, taking classes at Greenfield Community College (part of a dual enrollment program), going to practice, then homework, maybe a bite to eat and then she would go out and run a couple of miles.
"When practices are over, the coaches and players help put the equipment away. She is always there to pick up the last bucket of balls. As a captain for her last couple of years, she was a kid that led by example. She was always willing to help the younger players learn what is expected of them here. There is no "I am a senior and I am better than you" mentality here. All of us are in this together and the more we help each other learn, the better the results for all coaches and players."
Phillips was a three-year starter for the Indians inside the circle. In each of those years, she was a key component in helping guide Turners Falls to the state final. As a sophomore, she was on the losing end against Greater New Bedford Voke. Last year, she pitched the Indians to a state crown over Millis. A little more than a week ago, Phillips silenced Austin Prep in the state final, allowing just two hits while striking out 13 as part of a 2-0 victory which marked the eighth title for the Indians, tying them with Bishop Fenwick for the most in state history.
A top honors student, Phillips will continue her softball career next year at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
"No only is Mackenzie a motivated athlete, she also excels in the classroom," said Indians assistant coach Mark Sullivan, who's been with the program for 24 years. "She has had extreme success in both areas, while staying completely humble and modest in her personal accomplishments. She has never put herself above Turners Falls softball and always emphasizes the team concept. After a game this year, I overheard someone yell 'Nice game Mack' to which she responded 'Nope. This was a complete game effort tonight.' That is what Mackenzie is all about. She will not only be missed as an athlete, but also missed as the great person she is."
Behind Phillips, Turners Falls ran the table through the Western Mass. sectional tournament before easily disposing of Tahanto Regional in the state semifinal. Facing Austin Prep in the title tilt, Phillips and Cougars sophomore pitcher Logan MacDonald were locked in a solid pitching duel. The Indians managed to plate a pair of runs against MacDonald in the third inning. That proved to be more than enough run support for Phillips, as she handcuffed Austin Prep the rest of the way, holding them hitless over the final four frames.
"I have been blessed with so many great kids here, but if placing a rank on where they might be on a coaches poll, Mackenzie would certainly be in the discussion of top shelf," added Mullins, who just finished his 37th season at the helm. "She has been truly amazing and her numbers scream that out very clearly. However, she understands the value of humility as well.
"Mackenzie is confident in her abilities, but more importantly, she understands the value of all of her teammates. She understands the value of the coaches and how they helped her during her brilliant career here. She also knows her parents were instrumental in her development and I believe she is very appreciative of all who have helped her attain her goals. She is a just quality, young lady."
Phillips' numbers in 2016 were remarkable. The righthander went 20-1, striking out 257 in 141 innings pitched, walking just eight and batting .375 at the plate. For her career, Phillips registered 820 strikeouts, 68 wins and walked just 25. Her career batting average was a modest .336 with 68 RBI.
"Mackenzie exemplifies student-athlete," Turners Falls Athletic Director Adam Graves said. "She is hard working in the classroom and on the field. She works hard whether it be at a team practice or during an individual work. When game circumstances got tough, she would always raise her game to another level. She is an outstanding young woman both on and off the field."