Mackenzee Collins of South Whidbey High winds up for a pitch Thursday afternoon against Granite Falls on April 19, 2018. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Mackenzee Collins of South Whidbey High winds up for a pitch Thursday afternoon against Granite Falls on April 19, 2018. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Q&A with South Whidbey softball pitcher Mackenzee Collins

Collins, who will pitch at Colorado State next season, plays to honor the memory of her father, Tim.

Softball was at the heart of the relationship between former South Whidbey coach Tim Collins and his daughter Mackenzee.

When Mackenzee started playing as an 8-year-old, Tim became her first pitching coach. In 2014, he took over as the Falcons’ head coach, and the next year led South Whidbey to a Class 1A state tournament berth, with Mackenzee, then a freshman, as one of the Falcons’ top pitchers.

After Tim passed away in August 2015, Mackenzee incorporated softball into her healing process.

“It really helped that softball was our thing,” she said. “I’m playing for him now. I know that’s what he would want me to do. Softball has always been my escape. I don’t have to deal with everyday problems (on the field). That was my way of coping with everything — pushing through (obstacles) and working hard.”

Collins, now a senior, has become the best pitcher in the Cascade Conference, thanks in part to her experience with the Washington Ladyhawks and Absolute Blast select programs. Last November, she signed an NCAA letter of intent to continue her career at Colorado State University.

“Her strengths are her speed, power and placement,” Falcons coach Alexandra Goheen said. “She has a variety of pitches, and she throws them all well. The more pressure on her, the better she does.”

The Herald recently spoke with Collins about her softball career, other interests and future plans.

What do you love the most about softball?

You have so much pressure on you as a pitcher, and I enjoy the feeling of being a leader and having everyone look to (me) to be able to strike people out.

What are the main reasons for the success that you’ve had?

One is how much time I’ve put into it. It all started with my dad when I was younger. No matter what else was going on, we always made time to (practice). That made a big difference. The second is my confidence. It’s always something that I’ve had. As a pitcher, you have to have an attitude on the mound — “This is my field, and I’m going to get you out.” I feel like I’ve really mastered that.

Who has had the biggest influence on your softball career?

My pitching coach Danica Anaya and her husband, Gustavo. She was there for me after my dad passed away. They’ve played a huge part in how I’ve developed as a pitcher and a person. They’re super positive, the two best people I know.

Why did you choose Colorado State University?

It was the perfect school for me. I went to visit and fell in love with the campus and surrounding area. The players were super (friendly) and welcoming, and the coaches were nice and knowledgeable. The facilities were good. I’ve always wanted to play at a Division-I school, so this is a dream come true.

What would you like to study in college?

I’ve always known that I want to be an English teacher and coach. My mom teaches math, and my dad taught English and math, so I’ve grown up with it. I want to be in a career that touches peoples’ lives. It sounds cheesy, but I want to make a difference.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I love reading and writing. Jodi Picoult is my favorite author. She writes about controversial issues like gun control and teen suicide. I love her writing; I’ve read quite a few of her books. I also enjoy hanging out with my friends. We’ll go get food sometimes. My favorite restaurant is Freeland Cafe here on the island. (My go-to order) is french toast, bacon and chocolate milk.

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