(Editor’s note: University of Montana media release)
MISSOULA — Curious thing about MaKenna McGill, who was named Big Sky Conference Player of the Week on Tuesday for the first time in her career after putting together four multiple-hit games in five outings last week for the Grizzlies at the Red Desert Classic in St. George, Utah.
For as good as she was as a freshman, sophomore and halfway through her junior season — and she was very good, earning second-team All-Big Sky honors her first two years — it might have taken her getting hurt last spring to ever develop into the player she’s becoming as a senior.
“It can be very difficult to get over a major injury, but MaKenna learned a lot along the way by watching,” said coach Melanie Meuchel.
McGill missed the final 34 games last season after suffering a knee injury in a home game against Maine in March and sat out the entire fall exhibition season as well.
“She’s a student of the game, so although it was a difficult time to go through, she had some major growth during that time and learned a lot, and it’s starting to show,” said Meuchel.
Seattle, Boise State and Nevada certainly had no answer for McGill in St. George. The center fielder, who’s been error-free all season and hasn’t had a defensive miscue since her freshman season, went 10 for 19 (.526) in five games against those teams, driving in four and scoring seven times.
McGill went 3 for 4 against Seattle in Montana’s 7-6 eight-inning win against Seattle to open the tournament and 3 for 5 with a career-high four runs scored in the Grizzlies’ 16-3 victory over Nevada to close out the Red Desert Classic. In between she had two-hit games against Seattle and Boise State.
McGill didn’t get full clearance to resume playing softball until early February, and she was understandably slow to get going, hitting .192 through the team’s first two weekends and 10 games.
The team’s nine games over the last two weekends have been a different story. McGill hit safely in eight of them, five times producing multiple hits. She batted .552 in Riverside and St. George to up her season average to .382, more in line with the .374 she hit as a sophomore.
“MaKenna has always been a great athlete,” said Meuchel. “She’s competitive and intelligent, but sometimes you get to see something from a different perspective than you’ve seen in the past when you’re not playing.
“She’s being smart in her at-bats and not forcing the game. She just has it right now. She’s really seeing the ball. Everything is paying off for her.”
After batting in the No. 9 spot the first four games of the season, McGill has returned to her usual position atop the lineup. She leads Montana in hits (21) and runs scored (13) and ranks second only to Delene Colburn in batting average and on-base percentage (.477).
McGill and the Grizzlies will be back in action this weekend at the Oregon Duck Invitational in Eugene. Montana will face Bryant and play two games each against Toledo and No. 5 Oregon.
Montana will play its home openers next Tuesday, hosting Providence in a doubleheader at Grizzly Softball Field starting at 2 p.m.