By PAUL HINES
---- — MT. VERNON – Kenzi Tate is no stranger to the spotlight.
During her Mt. Vernon softball high school career, she piled up impressive statistics as a middle of the order hitter and pitcher.
She’s doing the same thing as a sophomore at the University of Tennessee-Martin.
With the season winding down, Tate has racked up 11 home runs and driven in 48 runs along with a .359 batting average. In the circle this season, she has 17 wins and a 2.88 earned run average.
“During the offseason, I worked hard with weight training,” Tate said. “I really worked out hard, which I’ve always done, but harder than I ever have. I really focused on my pitching this year. I worked on really perfecting my pitches.
“Freshman year happened. I think every freshman year is iffy. I didn’t have the best freshman year I wanted to so I knew coming in that I wanted to have that good sophomore year.”
The Mt. Vernon graduate was recently named the Ohio Valley Conference’s Player of the Week after finishing a weekend series with six RBI against Southeast Missouri. Tate added another honor Tuesday when she was selected to the all-conference first team.
Tate said adjusting to the college atmosphere was initially a challenge. The college game also brings more games. A typical high school season sees players competing in about 30 games each year. This season Tate’s team played 51 regular season matchups.
“I’ll be honest sometimes you’re just wore out,” Tate said. “But you have to keep going, and the hard work eventually pays off. Your body’s wore out. Everything’s wore out, but you fight through it because this is what you love to do.”
Tate is one of a group of sophomores on a young team this season.
“We’ve been a young team for the past couple years, and us as a sophomore class we will be coming in and really contributing a lot next year to the leadership aspect.”
UT-Marion opened its conference tournament Wednesday with a game against Murray State.