As her senior year winds down, Mackenzie Hamilton spends more time playing for the Canal Winchester High School softball team than she does attending class.
The Indians' shortstop is not a slacker; she simply entered her final semester of high school needing only one class to graduate. She has one English class, and also is part of career-based intervention, which allows her to leave school early on a daily basis in order to work. She submits her pay stub as proof of hours worked.
On the softball field, Hamilton is finishing a productive four-year career that has seen her start every game since the middle of her freshman season and become perhaps the Indians' most versatile offensive threat.
Adept at laying down bunts and swinging away, Hamilton led the team in batting average (.567) and hits (34) through 17 games. All but two of her hits were singles, and most of those never left the infield, including slap bunts.
"She has some power to swing away, but most of the time it's either a bunt or a slap," coach Randy Hinton said. "It is her choice. She reads the defense. I give her the option."
Hamilton also does her best to keep the team's spirits up in the midst of a trying season, making several of her teammates laugh during a 52-minute rain delay April 21 as the Indians lost to Newark 9-0.
Canal Winchester was 4-13 overall and 1-4 in the OCC-Capital Division before playing Big Walnut on April 25.
"I just try to be positive and make sure everybody is having fun because it is my last year," Hamilton said. "I knew what we'd be coming into the year. We thought we might struggle, but I want to make this fun for everybody. I think that's my personality."
Hamilton, who took up T-ball at age 5 and began playing softball shortly thereafter, shared shortstop duties with Rachel Jeffries at the beginning of her freshman year before taking over the starting spot later that season. But that might not have been the most impressive thing Hamilton did that year.
"My freshman year is when I started hitting left-handed," Hamilton said. "I taught myself how to do it because everybody said I was so fast, so I figured I would switch to the left side (in order to be a slap hitter), and it worked.
"I was struggling right-handed, so I switched and, ever since then, I have done that. I never got lessons, but it flowed well."
Hard work runs in Hamilton's bloodlines. Her older sister, 2015 Canal Winchester graduate Raven Hamilton, also was a four-year starter in softball and played basketball and volleyball as well.
Their father, Ival Hamilton, played baseball at both Ohio Dominican and Wright State in the 1990s.
Mackenzie Hamilton will attend Ohio Dominican and expects to major in business management but does not plan to play softball in college. She currently is focused on helping the Indians make a late surge and helping to groom her younger teammates for future success.
"The fact that she's a four-year varsity player says everything you need to know about Mackenzie," outfielder Lauren Zaluski said. "She's one of the best girls out there that we have. She is great to have for a lot of reasons. She's a good hitter and a good leader."
Track teams prepare
for Milt Will Relays
The track and field teams will field their full lineups for the first time in an invitational since April 8 when they play host to the annual Milt Will Relays on Friday, April 28.
Other participants will be Fairfield Union, New Albany, Pickerington Central, Pickerington North, Worthington Kilbourne and the Bexley girls. North is splitting its squads between the Milt Will Relays and the Olentangy Invitational.
North's boys won the Milt Will Relays title last year with 121 points, ahead of the runner-up Indians (101). Canal Winchester's girls will try to defend their championship after scoring 113 points last year to edge runner-up North (103).
"Being a relay meet, everyone is going to set up a lineup different than normal," boys coach Kurtis Robinson said. "It should be a highly competitive meet as several of central Ohio's best athletes will be competing."
Although Canal Winchester competed with a limited lineup in the Hank Smith Invitational on April 15 at Heath and the Elmo Kallner Invitational on April 22 at Hamilton Township because of Easter and prom, respectively, the boys still won the title in the latter meet and the girls got several strong performances.
The boys team won seven events at the nine-team Elmo Kallner Invitational and scored 145 points to finish well ahead of runner-up Grove City (112.4). Finishing first were Will Butler in the 1,600 meters (4 minutes, 48.63 seconds), Dom Davis in the high jump (6 feet), Caleb Jones in the 110 hurdles (15.76) and 300 hurdles (42.69), Danny Jones in the discus (165-0) and shot put (48-1 1/4) and the 1,600 relay (3:33.79).
Arianna Coleman, who was runner-up in the 100 (13.29) and long jump (15-2 1/4), and Cassie Kolonchuk, who placed second in the 1,600 (5:51.65) and third in the 3,200 (12:50.3), paced the girls team, which finished sixth (67) behind champion Hartley (105).
Baseball team sweeps
Eagles in OCC play
A sweep of New Albany in a home-and-home series last week kept the baseball team undefeated and alone in first place in the OCC-Capital entering this week.Videos •Watch an interview with Canal Winchester baseball player Austin Trace after the Indians' 14-3 win at New Albany on April 17. •Watch an interview with Indians pitcher Luke Williamson, who allowed one hit in five innings.
Canal Winchester, which was 12-3 overall and 8-0 in the league before playing Newark on April 24, one and a half games ahead of second-place New Albany at 7-2, owed the sweep of the Eagles in large part to strong pitching.
Luke Williamson allowed one hit in five innings in a 14-3, six-inning win at New Albany on April 17, and two days later, Ryan Glauner pitched a two-hitter in a 3-0 victory over the Eagles at home.
On April 17, the Indians scored four runs -- two on a double by Austin Trace -- in the second inning and added five runs in the fifth and five more in the sixth.
"I thought it would be a much closer game, but we came out hitting the ball and making plays," Trace said. "I think (New Albany pitcher Alex Arenschield) was giving away his fastball a little bit. We were seeing it early in the count and I was sitting on his fastball the whole at-bat. That's what got me going. ...
"We are here to win. We were ready to make our move for this league (championship)."
Canal Winchester's April 19 win was its 10th in a row after a 2-3 start. Its April 20 game against Newark was suspended in the third inning because of bad weather.
Big Walnut was third (5-4) in the OCC-Capital before April 24, ahead of Groveport (4-5), Newark (1-7) and Franklin Heights (1-8).