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Swinging Away: MacDannald’s bat propels Idaho into national spotlight
Former Manteca High standout Kaylee MacDannald is now a two-way talent who has lifted the College of Idaho softball program into the national spotlight.

The Tower

On the dirt infield of the diamond, Kaylee MacDannald is a student of the game. Off of it, though, she is a budding teacher.

The College of Idaho softball star spends part of her day in a classroom, learning to become a grade-school teacher, and the other part terrorizing pitchers in the Cascade Collegiate Conference.

Her ability to learn and push her boundaries has resulted in a breakout season, and that success has helped propel the Yotes into the national spotlight.

College of Idaho is 35-6 and ranked No. 8 in the latest NAIA Top-25 poll.

MacDannald, a bona fide defensive specialist in her first two seasons in Caldwell, Idaho, is making noise with her bat. Through 28 appearances, MacDannald had posted career-best numbers, including batting average (.451), extra base hits (17), hits (37), home runs (three), RBI (27), slugging percentage (.793), and stolen bases (nine).

She changed her approach, slowing down her timing while ramping up her work in the cage during the offseason. The result: MacDannald now steps onto the diamond a more complete player, a two-way talent with the ability to affect a game in multiple ways.

“Defense has always been my strong suit,” she said, “and I’ve always relied on my defense to keep me in the game and to keep my confidence up. But this year, it has been a little bit different in the roles have been reversed.

“I worked really hard in the offseason. It really was about my timing and about getting my swing adjusted to where I’m not so quick, so I really worked on just slowing it down in the box. … Another thing is I found my place on the team and I’m a lot more confident now, so I’m playing a lot more comfortably and that also helps in the box.”

The former Manteca High star took a break from her busy day to chat with The Tower about her growth this season and some of the differences between high school and collegiate softball.

The Tower: What is the difference between high school and college softball?

Kaylee MacDannald: College softball is a lot more competitive and it is a lot more grueling. At Manteca High, I appreciated the coaches and appreciated everything that high school taught me, but since I’ve been in college, I have had so much growth as an athlete and as a person. I have gotten so much better since I’ve been here, and I think the major difference between the two is the level of competitiveness.

TT: Have there been any challenges since you’ve been in Caldwell? 

KD: Of course, there have been challenges … but the biggest challenge I have had, personally, is juggling the sport itself and school. It’s a lot of time, a lot of effort, and a lot of hard work, but it is worth every single second of it.

TT: Give us an idea of what your day is like.

KD: Normally I get up and lift, either with the team or by myself, and then I’ll come back home and get ready for classes. I have classes throughout the day, and I’m an education major. I am placed into a classroom right now and I am teaching second grade. I do that in between my classes. … At end of my day, we’ll have practice, which normally last three hours. After practice, I’ll go the training room and get some work done.

TT: How long did it take you to adapt to college softball?

KD: Not long at all. I think my high school coaches and my travel ball coaches growing up helped prepare me really well for it. It didn’t take me that long to adapt so much as it took me to realize like, this is it. These are like my last four years.

TT: What is it like having such a great offensive season?  

KD: This year, my mindset is like I’m not playing for myself but I’m playing for the team a lot more this year. The success I’ve had is the success for the team. It’s not for me, and I’m not looking at my stats. … In the past couple of years, even in high school, I would have a tendency to look at my stats and have a mindset that it was for my success. But in reality, it’s about the team’s success.

TT: What is your mental approach when hitting the ball?

KD: Before I step into the box, I look at my bat and try to refocus and re-center myself and get my heart rate down. When I get into the box, I always have an up-the-middle approach.