If Jenna McGee was playing nervous this past season, then other teams in the Catholic League should be put on notice. Once she finds her confidence, opponents will be the ones fighting nerves, trying to figure out ways to keep her off the bases.
McGee recently completed her sophomore year at Archbishop Ryan and is the starting second baseman for the Ragdolls softball team. In her first season as a full-time starter, McGee put up envious numbers as the team’s two-hole hitter: she batted .424 with a .522 on-base percentage while scoring 13 runs.
She also led the Ragdolls in the overlooked category of sacrifice bunts. Batting behind leadoff hitter Megan Wolf (an on-base machine in her own right), McGee was entrusted with the unglamorous job of advancing her teammate into scoring position so the big boppers in the lineup could bring Wolf home. Things worked out well for both parties, as the Ragdolls advanced to the Catholic League semifinals and McGee was selected to be one of four sophomores on the league’s Carpenter Cup squad, an annual All-Star event that showcases top baseball and softball talent in Southeastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.
So with important seniors such as Wolf, Heather Forward, Tiffany DiMatteo and Alyssa Gospodarek gone and graduated, is McGee ready to make the leap to team leader?
Not just yet, but give her time…she’s working on it.
“Sometimes I get nervous that I can’t help people the same way that they’ve helped me,” she said on Monday, following the first day of a weeklong softball camp hosted by the school. “When I try to help people I get scared that I’m showing them how to do things the wrong way. But I like to help, and I like it when people ask for my help…I just have to get more comfortable in that role.”
Perhaps McGee is just nervous by nature. In conversation she is timid, but also had moments of being bubbly and engaging. Before McGee was done with her group of campers on Monday, Forward referred to her former teammate as “the quietest girl on the team…but also the nicest.” McGee herself admitted to being “awkward” when interacting with new people, but that didn’t stop her from enjoying the honor of being selected for the Carpenter Cup, even if she did acknowledge that being the only Ryan player on the roster was initially “scary.”
“It was a little strange, especially being on the same team as girls from St. Hubert,” she said. “But they’re really nice girls, so when you put aside the fact that you’re used to being their opponent then it’s a really fun experience. We only played one day, but as the day moved along we started to talk more and become friends right away. It starts awkward and becomes comfortable once you see they’re talented players just like you. It was a good experience for me.”
On June 18, McGee and company pulverized their Public League counterparts, 18-3, but defeats at the hands of Chester County and Delaware County in the double-elimination tournament made it a short but sweet venture for the Ryan junior-to-be. Now, even though summer vacation just started, McGee spends most of her time thinking about the 2013 Ragdolls season, mainly about how she can elevate her game to help replace what Ryan will be losing.
“I just want us to do well,” she said. “I want us to win so bad because I think we’re a really good team. I know we’re capable of getting to where we want to be, and that will motivate us to keep working hard into next season. This year, we especially wanted to win the title for the seniors; now that they’re gone we’re going to have to try even harder, which I think will be good for this incoming group.”
After knocking off St. Hubert early in the season, the Ragdolls never got a shot at the Bambies in the playoffs, instead falling to Conwell-Egan in the semifinals. Ryan had won eight straight heading into the semifinals, but rainy weather kept pushing the Egan game back and the Ragdolls fell, 9-6, while St. Hubert captured their fourth league title in seven years. (The Bambies defeated Ryan in the title game in 2011.)
Ryan head coach Andy Hafele admitted to being disappointed in how the season ended, acknowledging that his team had the talent to win it all; problem is, most teams that play in the Catholic League are capable of doing so. Still, Hafele is encouraged about his team’s prospects going forward, and his second baseman is a big reason why.
“If we had four more Jenna McGee’s then I’d be a happy camper,” he said. “We’re going to count on her to be one of our leaders next year, especially considering we’ll only have two seniors. She’s certainly capable of being a leader. Jenna is returning with a great attitude, and if she has more confidence in herself then she’ll be even better than she has been.”
Hafele also mentioned that getting an early start as a varsity player will help McGee down the line.
“She wound up starting full-time midway through her freshman year,” the coach said. “A lot of players don’t get such an early start, and the experience does leaps and bounds for one’s confidence. It takes most players time to figure out what they need to do to be successful at the varsity level. Jenna already knows that about herself.”
After the camp subsides at the end of the week, McGee will focus on enjoying her summer, much like a 16-year-old girl should. But she knows the 2013 season will be here before she knows it, and she’s ready to take the next step, both as a player and leader.
“Every year you want to be better than you were the year before,” she said. “In our league, we have to take it one game at a time, but at the same time we want to go further than we have these last two years. For us, that means getting to the championship and winning it. We want to win every single game, and I think that drive will push us over the top to where we want and need to be.” ••EndFragment