There is something different about Aujanae McCoy. Something hard to come by, no matter your station in life.
Talk to the Butler Community College softball team’s second baseman for five minutes and you know what it is.
“She is, absolutely, the happiest person I know,” Butler coach Doug Chance said. “Every day she puts her cleats on and it’s like seeing a kid at recess she enjoys every minute. Most of her demeanor comes from her family, from her values. She takes nothing for granted. For her, every day is a blessing.”
McCoy, a Wichita West product, has taken advantage of every opportunity that’s come her way in her freshman season for the Grizzlies headed into Wednesday’s best-of-three District E championship against Otero (Colo.) Junior College at East Park in El Dorado. The teams will play at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. with another game on Thursday if necessary.
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The winner advances to the NJCAA Division I Tournament, May 14-17 in St. George, Utah. Butler is trying for its fourth straight trip to nationals. Butler defeated Otero 9-1 on April 12 in the Colby Tournament.
McCoy was chosen All-Jayhawk Conference on Tuesday after batting .376 and stealing 34 bases on 34 attempts for No. 7 Butler (34-7), which won the Region VI title on Sunday in Wichita with a sweep of Seward County.
“Softball is my love, where my heart is it’s all out there on the field,” McCoy said. “Something about getting out on that dirt just makes me feel like I can do anything. Have you ever felt that way about something? It’s pretty incredible. I like to just take a second to appreciate the little things out there. The sun shining, my teammates having a good time just running my hands through the grass. I love it all.”
What’s been incredible about McCoy’s first season with Butler has been her ability to adapt to changes, big and small.
“The biggest thing has been hitting, where we’ve turned her into a slap hitter,” Chance said. “Which is hard to do by itself, but we’ve had her go from batting right-handed to left-handed at first we had her batting ninth and were having to use a designated hitter for her sometimes. Now, at the end of the season, in our most important games, she’s hitting leadoff for us.
“As far as being in the field, she is getting to balls at second base, with both feet in front of the ball, that it’s been six or seven years since we had a kid that could do that.”
McCoy has played so well that she’s gone from Chance being the only college coach at a summer-league game before her senior year at West, where she estimates she won “maybe eight or nine games, total” in volleyball, basketball and softball her entire career, to already having a Division I offer on the table from Kansas, where the Jayhawks would like her to come and play her last three years.
Not that she’s jumping at it, however.
“I’d like to play in the SEC,” McCoy said. “That’s the biggest, baddest conference out there, so that’s where I want to be.”
Chance doesn’t put it past her, mainly because of her speed and athleticism.
“She’s the fastest kid I’ve ever coached,” Chance said. “And she savors every minute she’s with her team, that she’s out there. You get the feeling she understands that it doesn’t last forever.”
It’s an attitude that her teammates have picked up on.
“She is so humble and so positive she is the spark for this team, that’s for sure,” Butler shortstop Monica Islava said. “She doesn’t let things get into her head, either. Good or bad, she takes whatever happens in stride.
“And she’s the fastest girl I’ve ever seen, played with, met, whatever. She can really move.”
Chance, Eck earn Jayhawk honors — McCoy wasn’t the only Grizzly to pick up postseason honors on Tuesday. Chance was named Jayhawk coach of the year and pitcher Sydnee Eck, an Andale native, was freshman of the year.
Eck was also an All-Jayhawk pick, along with first baseman Jillian Navarette, third baseman Joselynn Dean, outfielder A’liyah Rogers and outfielder Ashton Atwell.