By DAVID GREEN
1983: Phil McCaskey named an all-state football player.
1984: Ronda (Sutherland) McCaskey became Morenci’s first and only all-state volleyball player.
2010: Their daughter Chanler joined the ranks as an all-state softball player.
The recent Morenci graduate became the 15th Bulldog to earn all-state softball honors through coach Kay Johnson’s program.
In more than three decades of leading Morenci softball teams, Johnson wonders if McCaskey might be the finest third basemen she’s had.
“I don’t know if any of the others were as complete as Chanler,” Johnson said. “She really developed into an all-around player.”
Quickness, a strong arm and a feared presence at the plate.
That last quality wasn’t known during McCaskey’s first two years with the team.
She played left field in her freshman year, but soon earned a starting position at third base. She wasn’t given too many opportunities at the plate, however.
“I only had a few plate appearances because I couldn’t hit and I had quite a few strikeouts, so someone else hit for me,” McCaskey recalls.
Eventually she realized that wasn’t the way she wanted to finish her softball career.
“She worked on her swing form more than anyone else,” Johnson said, “and there was a change last year.”
McCaskey worked hard and gained confidence. Soon it all clicked, she said, and hitting became a strong point of her game.
The girl who used to strike out a lot finished her senior year with a .414 batting average, about 150 points higher than the team average.
She led the team with 41 hits and scored 42 runs. She finished with 31 RBIs and plenty of extra bases—24 of her 41 hits.
“She didn’t stop at first base,” Coach Johnson said. “When she put the ball in play, she did it with some authority.”
Her senior year produced 12 doubles, five triples and seven home runs—four of them over the fence.
That puts her in second place for homers in the Bulldog record book, behind Anna Sell’s 11. Sell batted back in the days before most schools had an outfield fence, when a hard hit ball kept on rolling.
Johnson said McCaskey earned respect at the plate and recalls two games this season when she received intentional walks.
McCaskey slammed doubles against two of the premier pitchers in the state, Johnson said, which gives some perspective to her batting average. Her quickness on the bases resulted in 19 steals.
Her quick first step also allowed her to play closer to home from her third base position. She developed into a “super arm,” Johnson said, and she cut her errors down to six this season.
McCaskey will play for Alma College next season.
“They’re really pleased with her,” Coach Johnson said. “Her athleticism, her agility and her versatility.”
“Softball is my favorite sport and definitely my best sport, but volleyball is fun to play and something that I would also like to continue at Alma College,” McCaskey said.
There was a time that neither softball nor volleyball were at the front of her mind.
“I started playing baseball and softball when I was five, but I was also a gymnast and I thought that was my calling,“ she said, “but I can’t even do a proper cartwheel.”
Then it was basketball that she thought might accompany her to college, but that wasn’t clicking like she expected.
In the end, softball was the sport to which she devoted the most time and effort, and that’s the one that will stay with her.