Athlete of the week: Mackenzie Toney has answered the bell for Callaway softball in her first two seasons

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, September 27, 2023

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The Callaway softball team has asked a lot of sophomore Mackenzie Toney in her first two seasons at the high school level and she has delivered.

The right-handed pitcher came in and had an instant impact last season.

“I wasn’t really nervous as a freshman because I had played travel ball with older girls that were 16 and 17 years old,” Toney said. “That really helped me come in and feel comfortable right away.”

While she did not expect to see so much game time in her freshman year, she took her chances and ran with them.

Toney did not rest on her laurels and pat herself on the back after a successful freshman campaign. Instead, she went to work over the summer to improve.

“It’s been a lot of work put in over the summer to really improve from my freshman and eight grade years,” Toney said. “It was a lot of travel ball, a lot of college showcase camps, and learning from different coaches and taking lessons. It has been a lot.

“I have learned how to put more spin on my pitches. I’ve also worked on my stride and I’m now able to push out more.”

The game of softball courses through every vein and artery in Toney’s body. There is rarely a weekend when she is not on a softball field, whether it is high school season or not.

“Softball is basically nonstop,” Toney said, laughing. “I go right from high school back into travel ball.”

Despite multiple veterans present on the pitching staff, Toney has carved out a role as the no. 1 pitcher on the staff. 

Her relationship with junior starting catcher Karlie Walker has helped Toney edge closer to her full potential. The two have forged a strong bond that has been cultivated at the high school, but also with travel ball.

“Me and Karlie  have a really strong relationship,” Toney said. “She knows when something is wrong on the mound, she helps me adjust. She can help me get out of my head too.

“She’s a good teammate and a great friend.”

Having a catcher that a pitcher can trust consistently is not a fact that is lost on Toney.

Toney is known for her pitching prowess, but the sophomore is always looking to perfect and improve other parts of her game. She rarely saw action from the plate a season ago, but has worked to improve her offense and now finds herself rarely having a designated hitter in her spot when she pitches and has been used as a pinch hitter and designated hitter herself some this season, a prospect that seemed pretty far fetched just 365 days ago.

“I have been working a lot with coach [Dalton] Reed (Callaway assistant) with my hitting,” Toney said. “We’ve really been working on getting the barrel on the ball.

“I’m starting to feel more comfortable at the plate.”

What is remarkable about Toney’s ability on the mound is that she is mostly self taught. She did not receive her first pitching lessons until she was about 11 years old.

“I would just be at home in the backyard teaching myself how to do it,” Toney said with a  chuckle.

In fact, Toney did not start out as a pitcher. She started playing softball as a shortstop, but saw the way other girls were slinging it on the mound and knew that is where she belonged.

Fast forward over half a decade later, and she is starting for the Cavaliers. She is a self-described “Callaway girl” and would have it no other way.