Mackenzie Paxson proud to be a pitcher

Little Flower sophomore Paxson, last year’s starting pitcher, hopes to build off what the Sentinels started last year.

Makenzie Paxson was the starting pitcher at Little Flower as a freshman. This year, as a sophomore, she hopes to build off what the Sentinels started a year ago. SUPPLIED PHOTO

A lot of times, players have to make moves when they get to high school.

That was no different for Makenzie Paxson, but her position switch wasn’t the usual one.

Paxson is a sophomore on the Little Flower High School softball team, and when she first came out for the team a season ago, she tried out at shortstop.

And in a perfect world, she probably would have been the Sentinels’ starter in the middle of the infield, but the coaching staff had different plans for her.

Bigger plans.

“They thought I was going to be a pitcher because that’s what I did when I was younger,” said Paxson, who plays club softball for the Newtown ROCK program. “That’s a great, high-level team, and they had two pitchers who were better than I was, so I didn’t get much time. I moved to shortstop to play. I played shortstop before, but I moved there from pitcher because I wanted to play. The pitchers were really good.”

Paxson still has the ability to play shortstop, and when she’s not on the mound, that’s where she plays. But right from her freshman year, Paxson has been the starting pitcher at Little Flower. And hurling the ball might not be like riding a bike, but it didn’t take her long to find her groove.

“Practice at first was tough because I hadn’t pitched in a while, but once the games came around, I was a lot more comfortable and I was ready to pitch,” said Paxson, who helped Little Flower to an 8–7 record, which included a trip to the Catholic League playoffs. “It helped that I had a great team playing behind me, but I got comfortable really fast. I did it for the tournament team and there you face great competition. That got me ready for facing the good players in high school. I was still a little nervous.”

Maybe, but she didn’t show it.

And it was that poise that made her a great piece for the Little Flower team to build around.

Last year, she was learning her way in the Catholic League, but now even though she’s just a sophomore, she’s a PCL veteran. And she hopes to use last year’s experiences to help this year’s younger players.

“Last year, the seniors treated me like I was a leader and they voted me to be a captain this year,” the Tacony native said. “That means a lot to me. The other captains are seniors and they treat me like I’m just as important as they are. So I try to set a good example and be a good leader.”

Paxson may have been the centerpiece of last year’s freshman class, but she’s not alone. The Sentinels are still a young team, with some good seniors sprinkled in.

And while the team isn’t full of veterans, it does have a lot of skilled players who hope to make a run this spring.

“I think we can be really good this year,” Paxson said. “We lost our first game this year (to Conwell-Egan), but they’re really good and we made a lot of mistakes. We also had two scrimmages and we won them.

“The weather has been bad, we’ve had three games cancelled. But anytime we don’t have a game, we practice and we’re getting a lot better in practice. I like playing, but the practice is going to make us a lot better.”

Whenever someone is willing to give her pointers, Paxson is all ears.

Growing up, she got some help from her dad, a former athlete at Father Judge. She’s also picked up a lot of tips from her club team. And she’s learned even more while playing at Little Flower.

As talented as she is, she’s also a very heady player.

“I love softball in that you have to think about things every game, you have to read the play,” Paxson said. “It’s not like other sports where you call a play and go do it. You have to make adjustments as you’re playing. You can have a plan, but it can change. I love that about the sport.

“I made a lot of friends in softball. I played for a team in South Jersey and even the (Newtown) team, I didn’t know a lot of people when I first went there. But they were really nice and I became friends with them right away.”

When she’s not playing softball, Paxson likes to help other people. She’s a member of the Little Flower community service corps, and succeeding there is even better than hurling a no-hitter in softball.

“We do things like serve food to people who need it,” Paxson said. “It’s a lot of fun because you’re helping people. I really like doing that. It’s something I wanted to do, help out in the community, so I signed up.”

Now she’s hoping to sign up for a Catholic League crown.

It will be tough. The Catholic League is always tough in softball and this year will be no different. But as long as the Sentinels have their stud pitcher on the mound, they’ll have a chance.

And she’s not playing for herself, she’s playing for the team.

“We want to win as a team because we work so hard together,” Paxson said. “We’re getting better, we play well together and our goal is to get better every game.”