Saturday, May 7, 2022 | 11:01 a.m.
Hampton sophomore Mackenzie Reese was looking for an inside court late in the eighth inning against Seneca Valley on April 22.
She got it, and with one stroke, she did something Ron Fedell had never done in 24 seasons as Hampton’s softball coach.
Reese drove Seneca Valley rookie Lexie Hames’ two-strike throw off the wall at Hampton Community Park to give the Talbots a sectionless 5-4 win.
Fedell said it was the first home run in nearly a quarter century as a coach.
“It was amazing,” Reese said. “(Hames) is one of my good friends. I grew up playing against her since we were younger. She usually throws me inside, so I was ready for an inside throw.
Fedell said he realized the significance of the home run as Reese rounded third base, where he stood as a coach.
“It was special for me, and it lifted the team up so much,” he said. “We had RBIs (walk-ins) and things like that, but never a walk-in home run. … It was just surreal to me.
Reese, who plays first base and cleans up bats, had also homered in the second inning. The Talbots overcame a 4-1 deficit and forced extra innings when senior catcher Bella Henzler tripled and scored on a throwing error on the play with two outs in the bottom of the seventh.
Reese’s spectacular home run came during a late-April streak in which she hit four homers in three games. She also went deep in a 5-2 win over Shaler on April 25 and a 13-10 loss to North Hills on April 27.
She credits her show of power to recent work with Henzler’s father, Kurt, a former Shaler baseball player.
“He helps me improve my lower half and my steps,” said Reese, who beats around .400. “It helps me with my timing and I see the ball better. It’s definitely having more power in my swing.
Reese typically plays catcher for his travel teams. But when she arrived at Hampton University last spring as a freshman, she realized one thing with James Madison-bound Henzler behind the plate.
“I knew…I’ll definitely have to find a different position to play,” Reese said.
She started playing first base for the first time and did well enough to earn the starting job in ninth grade. She has become more comfortable on the court, while improving at home plate after a strong freshman season.
“She showed flashes of power last year,” Fedell said. “She was a freshman. She’s a year older and even when she gets away with it, she hits the ball hard.
Reese helped Hampton (4-6 overall, 3-6 in the section as of May 2) close to a fourth-straight playoff berth for the first time in program history.
For some, his home run against Seneca Valley came during an emotional week for the Talbots.
The Talbots lost to Fox Chapel, 15-0, in four innings on the senior day on April 29. loss in at least 18 years.
But this loss meant nothing compared to what one of their teammates was going through.
Henzler was dealing with the loss of Lauren Bernett, a former South Fayette star and second-year wide receiver at James Madison, who died of an apparent suicide in late April. The Talbots and North Hills players posed for a photo together ahead of their April 27 match in Bernett’s honor and wore purple ribbons – the color of JMU – in their hair. Henzler, one of the WPIAL’s top receivers, will attend JMU in the fall on a Division I softball scholarship.
“It was definitely a very emotional week,” Reese said. “Bella was really upset. We tried to get her back.
Fedell said: “We were very concerned about Bella. She’s a carefree child and I’ve never seen her upset except when it happened. … She still faces it and gets over it. We are here for her. But it’s a difficult thing right now.