Augusta senior Bailey Pennycuff launched a ball that looked destined to tie the biggest game in Class 4A, but Macie Eck had a reputation to uphold.
Andale/Garden Plain’s only senior on its 2019 softball roster, Eck track back from her center field position. She track the ball to the warning track and the wall. She leaped, contorting her body almost 180 degrees, and made the catch to preserve a one-run lead and an eventual 2-0 win over the undefeated Orioles.
Eck said it was the best catch of her career, and coach Chuck Schrader said that is why she is going to Notre Dame.
Down to just a handful of school days left, it feels as if she has been playing softball for the Indians for well more than her four years, Eck said. She has become a two-time All-State, All-AVCTL IV first-team and All-Metro selection. She will likely add a third year to all of those titles in 2019.
She has helped take the Indians to two state tournaments, and, again, likely will make it three this season. But Schrader said while she might have reason to relax with her college taken care of, she doesn’t. After Monday’s win, Eck was the first one off the field to hug a group of kids waiting to congratulate the team.
“She is a hell of a player,” he said. “She is everything you would ever want on the field, and she is probably a better person.”
On Nov. 8, 2016, Eck took to Twitter with an announcement that must have come as a surprise to some. Without being named to the all-league first team, second team or even honorable mention, she verbally committed to Notre Dame.
As she gained accolades, she held firm to her decision, and that became a reality more than two years later Nov. 14, 2018, when she signed with the Irish as the first Andale student to earn an athletic scholarship to Notre Dame.
“I try not to think about that,” Eck said. “I really try to focus on doing what I can to help this team win one pitch at a time.”
Not only is Eck living up to those Division I standards she accepted as a first-semester sophomore, but also those of her last name. “Eck” is splattered across Andale and the greater Wichita area.
Atop the right field scoreboard at the Andale softball complex, there is an advertisement for Matt Eck Real Estate. There is Ellee, Jaden, Lainee and Sydnee, who was the last Andale/Garden Plain player to earn All-Metro honors before Macie.
There are many more in the Wichita area who Macie said she isn’t even sure how she is related to. But Kyla Eck is next. A sophomore second baseman for the Indians, Kyla said though she and her sister fight a lot and though there are a lot of expectations that come with being an Eck, they have a special bond.
“She is such a good leader and handles everything so well,” she said. “She brings a lot of energy. She pushes us to be better, and we just want to make her happy with it being her senior year.”
Andale/Garden Plain is off to a flying start to 2019. The Indians are 15-1 and No. 1 in Class 4A West. A solo home run from junior catcher Abby Gordon and a triple from Kyla Eck and passed ball score helped them to the biggest win of the season against Augusta and senior All-Metro pitcher Gracie Johnston, who is signed to Missouri State.
The Indians can’t blink. After Johnston pitched the second game of the doubleheader and picked up a 5-0 win for the Orioles, Andale/Garden Plain is potentially one loss away from missing out on a home regional tournament. That is where Macie Eck’s senior leadership comes in.
“She shows up and practices harder than anybody every day, so if you can’t respect that and understand how that has gotten her to where she is today, you’re kidding yourself,” Schrader said. “That is the greatness of Macie, and it starts with her parents.”
The Indians are confident in their chances in 2019 after Monday’s performance, and though Eck said she is excited for what is ahead at Notre Dame, there is one last thing to check off the list: a state championship. It would be the Indians’ first since 2012.
“I think I’ve always been a leader in my own way,” Eck said. “Being the only senior, it’s up to me, but it’s easy now to lead the team.”