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2020 SOFTBALL PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Makenna Segal, South Forsyth
Makenna Segal
Makenna Segal, an Ole Miss signee, hit .468 this year, blasting seven home runs, driving in 25 runs and scoring 41 times. Photo by Mitchell Martin

Opposing pitchers had two options this season when it came to facing Makenna Segal.

Either pitch to the South Forsyth slugger or intentionally walk her. However, that second option came with a condition.

If pitchers elected to walk Segal, it meant they also had to watch her trot to first base with the "Chicken Dance" blaring from the speakers, with fans in the bleachers and teammates in the dugout clapping along to the rhythm. 

Oftentimes, upon reaching first base, Segal would turn back toward South's dugout, place her thumb against her forehead and wiggle her fingers, signifying that the opposing team was simply too "chicken" to pitch to her

.The idea to play that song after intentional walks was spawned before the season by a mother of one of South's players.

"At first I thought it was a joke. I was like, 'That's going to be very funny,'" Segal recalled. "The first time it happened, I remember looking up into the booth and she was just big smile and two thumbs up. I just laughed. That was definitely something to remember."

After all, who could blame opposing teams for walking Segal?

An Ole Miss signee, Segal hit .468 this year, blasting seven home runs, driving in 25 runs and scoring 41 times. 

She was walked 40 times.

"I try to go up thinking that they are going to pitch to me, and that's something that Coach (Ronnie) Davis instilled in me my sophomore year when I first started seeing it," Segal said. "It definitely got a lot harder this year, like during the North series when I was 0-for-0 with 10 walks, and I was like, 'This is tough.'" 

Makenna Segal
Segal leaves South with a .489 career batting average, 34 home runs, 117 RBIs, 118 walks and a .620 on-base percentage — all school records. Photo by Mitchell Martin
In fact, Segal shattered the school record for walks in a season (43, 2019) as well as career walks (118, 2017-20). 

South head coach Leanne Brooks plugged her power hitter in different spots in the lineup the past couple of years, even sticking Segal at the top of the lineup as the War Eagles leadoff batter.

Segal challenged herself to make an impact on the bases if opposing teams took the bat out of her hand. Many times, if she was intentionally walked to start the game, Segal would immediately steal second base to give South a runner one second with nobody out, all but guaranteeing the War Eagles a quick run.

"It definitely becomes more of a mental battle, because then I'm sitting there thinking, 'Oh, I'm not really contributing to the team in terms of at the plate,'" Segal said. "But I'm going to steal and I'm going to make sure I get good leads on the bases just so I can contribute in scoring runs."

Segal leaves South with a .489 career batting average, 34 home runs, 117 RBIs, 118 walks and a .620 on-base percentage — all school records.

Segal set single-season records last year in walks (43), batting average (.585) and on-base percentage (.722), and her 12 home runs as a sophomore still stands as a season best.

She recalls overhearing one particular conversation after receiving her free pass to first base this season.

"One girl in the dugout said, 'She's not even that good," Segal remembers. "And the other kid smacked her in the head and said, 'She's an SEC commit. What do you mean?'"

Segal signed last month to play softball at Ole Miss, joining a Rebels squad that won 41 games and reached the Super Regional stage in 2019.

Segal admitted her final season at South was bittersweet. While the War Eagles captured the Region 6-7A title and advanced to the second round of the playoffs, she felt the clock ticking.

Still, she considers the conversations with her teammates before practices and the nicknames South's players bestowed on one another memories that will last a lifetime.

"Poor Josie," Segal said with a laugh. "Josie Crossman, our freshman, we nicknamed her 'train wreck' because she'd always fall on her face in practice. Those were always fun memories."