After seeing success in her high school softball days, freshman center fielder McKenzie Melvin has found a home here in Glassboro.
In 2021, after being named the South Jersey Times Female Athlete of the Year, Melvin wanted to continue her softball career at the Division I level. Although she started her career at Delaware State University, she joined Rowan softball and has made her presence known both on the offensive and defensive end.
Since beginning her softball journey at a young age, Melvin has played travel ball and competed at a high level, eventually landing her position in the outfield which she now loves.
“I’ve been playing softball since I was ten. I started out as a catcher and then a shortstop and actually one of my travel ball coaches changed me to shortstop to centerfield which was the best decision he could’ve made, because I love playing center,” Melvin said. “I never played tee-ball. I never played when I was too, too young, so I started when I was ten. I started off playing little league for my town, for Monroe Township. I played little league for a little bit and then I moved up to playing travel ball probably when I was 12 or 14.”
She joined the Profs’ squad after their fall preseason and is happy that she has been accepted and has adjusted to the team well.
“I wasn’t with them in the fall, I was at Delaware State, and it wasn’t the right fit for me, and I wanted to be closer to home,” Melvin said. “All the girls have been really supportive, it’s just a really united team. If somebody’s down, they’ll pick you up. I’ve told so many people ‘coming here, I’ve felt like I’ve known these girls forever.’ They welcomed me in, they never judged me, or looked down on me because I didn’t play with them in the fall. They were really supportive, so it’s kinda nice to have a team who welcomed me and opened their arms.”
Head Coach Kim Wilson also notes Melvin’s ability to fit right in, so much so that she has batted leadoff for Rowan all season long.
“I think it’s pretty unique, and so it’s been fun to see her come into her own as leadoff. She can do it in so many ways getting on base, so it puts a lot of pressure on the other teams, and they don’t know what she’s going to do, and that’s a good thing for us,” Coach Wilson said. “I think her on-base percentage is around .400-.500, that’s huge for us to get her on at least 50% of the time, it’s fantastic.”
Melvin has a .437 on-base percentage, with a slugging percentage of .605. Melvin also understands the role that she plays as the first batter for the Profs, in leading things off, she knows how important it is for her to get on.
“I feel like there’s pressure here and there because sometimes I feel like I need to get on. Since I am a fast runner I can pressure the defense,” Melvin said. “So I feel like once I get on, maybe other hits will continue, everyone else will start hitting behind me and it will allow to bring me in.”
Melvin has been racking up the hits she leads the team with 43, she also has 15 RBIs on the season along with five home runs and seven doubles which are both second on the team respectively.
Another threat for Melvin is her speed, which she utilizes both in the field and on the basepaths. She has the ability to lay one down and move runners over, while also going yard.
Coach Wilson admires the job she has done both at the plate and in the field.
“I think she’s done a great job. She’s doing a really great job at the leadoff position for us. She’s able to lay a bunt down and also she’s hit some home runs this season and is getting on and with her speed. It’s really been helpful for us to move her around the bases,” Coach Wilson said. “She’s starting in center for us, which she’s done a great job out there, she uses her speed out there also, so it’s [a] win-win for us.”
Melvin also reflects on how opponents will have to play her on the defensive end.
“I think it’s very useful because the other teams really have to know how to play you. Honestly, this is my first time ever bunting, I never bunted in the past,” Melvin said. “So as soon as I came here when we were practicing, Coach was like ‘can you sneaky bunt?’ and I was like ‘what’s a sneaky bunt?’ So I just kept practicing and they [other teams] don’t know where to play me since I can hit and I can bunt, and that’s what they told me being able to bunt and being able to hit in power is going to confuse the team, so they’re not going to really know what to do.”
Coach Wilson added to talking about her danger on the bases. She is second in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) with 28 stolen bases.
“It’s great for us,” Coach Wilson. “She has an opportunity to steal second and to steal third so it just puts so much pressure on the defense, they have to field cleanly in order to get her out. We’ll use it, that’s for sure.”
Her defense has also been a key factor this season, she has taken the leadership role in the outfield and has succeeded.
“She made a great catch going back against Kean the other day, and also threw somebody out at the plate,” Coach Wilson said. “She does it not only with her glove but also with her arm and she can cover a lot of ground out there, again she’s using her speed so that’s a great asset for us.”
Overall, Melvin has made a huge impact on the team early on in her career and Coach Wilson is excited to see what the future holds.
“She’s young, she’s a freshman,” Coach Wilson said. “So I’ll look forward to seeing her for the next few years, that’s for sure.”
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