Makenna Segal knew she could play, but as she walked onto South Forsyth High School’s softball field for tryouts, she still had the same anxious thoughts swirling through her mind that any first-year high school player would.
“I was like, 'I don't even think I'm going to make it,” she said. “‘I think I might make JV.’”
When the live hitting portion of the tryout commenced, Segal faced South ace Lauren Baccari, a familiar face she had known since she was little. It remains the only time Segal has batted against her, and in her first appearance that day, Segal whiffed on a riseball.
“I was like, 'Crap, that's not good,’” Segal said. “’(But) I came back my next three (at-bats) and had really solid hits and was like, 'OK, that's a little better.’”
A year later, Segal’s confidence has only grown. As a freshman, she hit .405 with eight home runs and 45 RBIs. Now a sophomore, she’s morphed into the county’s most feared hitter and is on pace to match the county’s best single-season performances in recent history. With the War Eagles entrenched in a close region race, they’ll be looking to their young third baseman to help carry them to the end of the year and into the future.
As of Sept. 10, Segal sported a .514 batting average with 10 home runs, 21 RBIs, 19 hits and 15 walks. She has more home runs than any other kind of hit and, understandably, many of the free passes to first have been intentional. She was intentionally walked three times in the region opener against West Forsyth.
“It's a little disappointing because I like to hit, but then again, it's another baserunner for my team,” Segal said. “I feel that I've worked a lot on my baserunning since I'm getting so many opportunities to be on base.
“I've tried to come into every single game this year thinking they're going to pitch to me, even if it's a game like West.”
Segal’s home run stats are already breaking records at South. Her 10 home runs this season have tied a record set by Sarah Womack in 2016. She’s already shattered the career record, which was also 10 prior to this season.
“As a little kid you dream about breaking records,” Segal said. “I always dreamed about being a record holder and being a person that people are afraid of. It's funny to see my little kid dreams kind of coming to life.”
She’s on pace to equal or best the other most dominant county season in recent memory: Lambert’s Marissa Guimbarda had 18 home runs in 2016, and through 15 games that season, she had nine. As of Tuesday, with 15 games played this year, Segal has 10 longballs.
Segal feels like she’s become stronger physically, but doesn’t think she’s really changed her approach at the plate from her freshman year. She says she has a better idea of what pitches she can hit and which ones she should probably lay off. The ‘freshman nerves,’ as she calls them, have all but subsided.
“I think her self-discipline is one of the biggest things she has grown with,” South coach Ronnie Davis said. “She made big strides last year. The game (is) the game. The mental side is wherever people take it.”
Segal had some big moments during her freshman year, namely a game-winning grand slam against North Forsyth and a home run against Mountain View in the playoffs.
This season, she’s only added to that, with a game-winning seventh-inning home run against Lambert on Aug. 28. The most meaningful homer to Segal, though, came during a win against Forsyth Central and its ace pitcher Bailey McCachren, who is having a career year herself.
“That one meant a lot to me,” Segal said. “I've known Bailey since we were four. I know how good she is as a pitcher and she knows how good I am as a hitter. We joked about it the night before, about which one of us was going to win.”
As a sophomore, Segal is in a much different position than a lot of other players her age with the amount of responsibility she has on offense as the War Eagles’ prime run producer. She still knows her place as an underclassman, but with two years left, her role in leading South figures to only grow larger.
“It's kind of weird, because you always think the team leaders are the upperclassmen – the seniors and maybe a junior depending on how large the senior class is,” Segal said. “Leadership isn't given, it's earned. I feel like I've earned my leadership on this team.
“It's going to be a fun career. That's all I can say.”