MARYSVILLE – McKenzie Justice has been focusing mostly on softball since she was 7.
Now 18, the Marysville-Pilchuck High School girls softball standout hopes the scales of Justice will tip in her favor.
The senior pitcher is poised to lead the Tomahawks to post-season play again this year before moving on to play for Everett Community College.
Justice looks intense when she plays, but the key to her success is being able to relax. “It’s about trusting my mechanics” in both hitting and pitching.
She said she used to be a terrible hitter. She would often be pinch-hit for in select tournaments.
But by learning to relax, her reflexes are quicker, and she has developed some power, hitting numerous homers last year.
“Home runs are accidents,” she said, adding she is mostly a line-drive hitter.
In her early years she was coached by her dad, Jerry, on a select team. She has always been a pitcher, but also plays first base in high school and shortstop and second base on her select team, which travels all over the country.
Pitching has always come naturally to her physically, but mentally it’s been challenging, she admits.
When she was 10, she was hit by a line drive and “never wanted to pitch again.” But her dad talked to her about it being her job.
“Some games you’re going to look good, and some you’re going to look bad,” she said he told her. “You can’t do anything about the last pitch. Focus on the next one.”
While Justice was dominating on the mound last year, as a sophomore, “There were multiple games I was hit hard. I would get down on myself and down on my teammates.”
She realized she was not being a team player. “If you’re focused on others you’re not focused on yourself” being the best you can be, she said.
She was told that the only thing she can control is herself. It’s all about effort, attitude and hustle.
One of the things she’s done to help her relax and to be a better teammate is to develop special handshakes with the other girls in the infield. “It helps keep us relaxed, and it’s fun and weird and keeps everybody laughing,” she said, adding the five players have played together since they were 9. “We play for each other.”
Justice is particularly close to her catcher, Sydney Zachry, who has caught every game for her since she was 8. She also has a lot of respect for shortstop Katie Barrett, who knows how to “put me in my place.”
Two other players who should help the Tommies a lot this year are leadoff hitter Chloe Morgan and junior pitcher Lillian Fischer, who is a strong hitter at third base, and a pitcher who can spell Justice.
Justice said she doesn’t have much time away from softball, but she does enjoy hanging out with friends. “I always want to be doing something. I always tell my mom I’m so bored,” she said.
They like to watch movies and play games together. But mostly, “We go out to eat a lot.” Just about every week they go to Buffalo Wild Wings, with her favorite flavor being “Asian Zing.”
She also said she doesn’t get to go on vacations much with family. “My softball tournaments are our trips,” she said.
Justice, who enjoys going to the powerhouse University of Washington softball games, said she wants to be an emergency room nurse. She said she’s not sure if she can keep up softball after EvCC. “It’s hard to do a nursing program and play sports,” she said.