There are few individual positions in sports in which one player can change the entire outlook on a team, perhaps none more so than a dominant softball pitcher.
Sophie Garner-MacKinnon has pitched every inning for Hall through its first four games and has been dominant despite a 2-2 record.
“Sophie is a dream player to have,” Hall coach Rebecca Lewis said. “Not just for her talent as an outstanding pitcher, but also because of her leadership and the way that she is a team player. She is somebody who brings everyone up around her.”
Garner-MacKinnon has a 0.44 ERA through 32 innings pitched, striking out 84 batters (2.63 K’s per inning) and allowing just two earned runs on 13 hits and three walks. Earlier this week she struck out 30 batters in a 12-inning game.
“It has been great to see my hard work pay off,” Garner-MacKinnon said. “That being said, there is still work to be done. In the coming games, I am looking to keep building on my early success.”
As a freshman in 2019, Garner-MacKinnon struck out 240 batters over 113 innings pitched with a 1.54 ERA to earn 2019 All-CCC honors.
When her sophomore season was canceled, Garner-MacKinnon did not take any time off .
“I was fortunate enough to still have a summer travel ball season,” Garner-MacKinnon said. “I got to play against top competition around the country and that really prepared me for this season. When I wasn’t playing, I worked with trainers on my pitching and conditioning.
Garner-MacKinnon spent her summer with the Rhode Island Thunder 16U team along with another Connecticut standout, Waterford’s Maddie Burrows.
Division I colleges took notice following her strong summer circuit, and before long Garner-MacKinnon’s dreams came true.
“At midnight on September 1st I started receiving texts and emails from schools,” Garner-MacKinnon said. “One of them was Duke, which was my Number One school from the beginning. It was a pretty easy decision to make and I committed a week later.”
“I feel like I brag about her like she is my own daughter,” Lewis said. “That is what she has been working on for years, it has been her dream. To watch her grow, develop and be able to go after her goals, it is a dream come true.”
By the time the spring arrived, Garner-MacKinnon’s focus was entirely on Hall’s upcoming season and continued improvement.
“It feels great to be back with my high school team,” Garner-MacKinnon said. “It is nice to see everyone reconnect after the year off. We are a fairly young team, but I think we have a lot of potential. We are just focused on getting better every day and trusting the rest to take care of itself.”
Hall (2-2) has show potential early, but is still working to find itself offensively, especially after a 4-2 loss to No. 9 Southington on Thursday.
“Southington is always a great team, all the credit in the world to the program they have built over the years,” Lewis said. “But we are starting to get to that level, so this was a great moment for us to recognize that we really can hang with Southington. It is something positive to build on as well as recognizing that today wasn’t good enough.”
Garner-MacKinnon struck out 19 Southington batters over seven innings, allowing four runs (one earned) on two hits and two walks.
The impressive outing followed perhaps the most dominant pitching performance of the year thus far in a 1-0 victory over RHAM April 19th.
Garner-MacKinnon completed a 12-inning shutout, striking out 30 batters and allowing just four hits and a walk. Lewis overlooked two dropped third strikes in the scorebook when initially reporting the game to other media outlets.
“In games like that, it is important to stay mentally locked in,” Garner-MacKinnon said. “My approach is to take it one pitch at a time and that helps me stay sharp over the course of a game. It is physically draining in long games, but even more so mentally.”
“The closest thing I’ve ever seen to that performance was when Sophie was a freshman,” Lewis said. “We played Avon and she had 22 strikeouts over 14 innings. It is impressive, and Sophie is such a competitor. She wants the ball and she wants to be on the mound and that is the mentality that you need to have as a pitcher.”
In her previous start, Garner-MacKinnon struck out 20 batters in seven innings to no-hit Lewis Mills 4-0.
“I have so much trust in her, and she trusts me as well,” Lewis said. “It is really a partnership, we talk about pitches, strategy, and how to approach individual batters. We have similar softball minds, and she has a great softball IQ.”