CLEARWATER — The 5-foot-3 dynamo who has made a career of taking one for the team took another one Friday, as if on cue. This pitch nailed South Carolina shortstop Kenzi Maguire in the left shoulder.
Naturally, she never flinched. Maguire graduated from the flinching phase a few dozen games ago.
“I love it,” the River Ridge High alumnus said. “It’s fun. It’s a free base, and ‘We Have Ice’ is, like, our motto.”
Mildly overshadowing Maguire’s prosperous career with South Carolina is her penchant for getting plunked. The pitch she absorbed in Friday’s 8-6 loss to Virginia Tech at the St. Pete/Clearwater Elite Invitational was the 51st of her career, giving her the Gamecocks record for now.
She has traded it lately with third baseman Jana Johns, who stands at 50.
“I thoroughly enjoy getting hit by a pitch,” said Maguire, the Tampa Bay Times’ Player of the Year in 2014, when she hit .598 with seven home runs, 12 triples and 45 RBIs as a River Ridge junior. “I’m leadoff, so I’m just trying to get on base for my team.”
She has done that in myriad methods for the Gamecocks.
A career .417 hitter in college, Maguire went 1-for-2 with an RBI-double in Friday’s defeat and now has reached base safely in 21 consecutive games dating to last season.
Safely, of course, is a relative term. At this point, Maguire reports no lasting welts or lumps resulting from 51 plunks.
“I don’t really bruise,” she said. “So I just take it.”
Cowgirls fan creates daylight for Thurman Thomas
For John Callaham and his in-laws, a casual conversation with a stranger Thursday morning evolved into a celebrity encounter both surreal and stirring.
While waiting for the fan trolley to transport them to the Eddie C. Moore Complex, Callaham’s party learned the stranger hailed from Missouri City, Texas, part of metropolitan Houston. That prompted Callaham’s father-in-law, Randy Smith, to mention that Oklahoma State had a legendary tailback from that area named Thurman Thomas.
"And he goes, ‘Well, that’s who you’re talking to, Thurman Thomas,’” said Callaham, whose daughter Jules is a Cowgirls freshman outfielder.
“You could tell he didn’t want to come out and tell us, and we practically had to pry it out of him, so we thought surely that’s who it is.”
Thomas, who still resides in Buffalo (where he became a Pro Football Hall of Fame tailback), mentioned he was in the area to see his son — who plays baseball at nearby IMG Academy — and decided to catch his alma mater’s softball team. Problem was, Thomas was informed at the gate that the event was sold out.
Fortunately for him, Callaham — who had purchased player tickets for this event months back — had an extra one. Thomas graciously accepted the ticket, took in the Cowgirls’ 14-6 romp of Virginia Tech and posed for photos with the OSU players.
“He was cordial and nice to us, talked to us the whole time,” Callaham said. “I thought it was the least I could do.”
No Sis sighting
Top-ranked Washington is playing this weekend without two-time All-America shortstop Sis Bates, whom coach Heather Tarr said remains day-to-day with an undisclosed injury.
Without her, the Huskies were embarrassed 8-0 in five innings by Alabama on Thursday before responding Friday afternoon with a 7-0 rout of Florida State.
Third baseman SilentRain Espinoza led Friday’s onslaught, going 2-for-3 with a home run. Freshman starter Kelley Lynch allowed four hits, walked five and struck out six in 5 1/3 innings, while adding a three-run homer for good measure..
“I think it was a tough thing for us to recover from (Thursday) in a very public setting, a lot of high expectations for a lot of younger players and older players on our team,” Tarr said.
“We get to wear that pressure and learn how to do it a little bit, but it’s one game. It was nice to recover from (Thursday) to today, and we’re a long ways from where we want to be.”