Many freshmen softball players who come into DODDS Pacific programs are just cutting their teeth on the game. Kadena rookie Macalah Danielsen clearly did not get a copy of that memo.
Primarily a shortstop, Danielsen posted the region’s best offensive numbers in helping lead the Panthers back to the title prominence they’ve enjoyed frequently in the Far East Tournament era.
Kadena won the Okinawa title for the 11th time in 12 seasons. It won five of six regular-season games against island rival Kubasaki, then swept the Dragons two straight in the best-of-three district championship series.
Then just last week, Kadena righted itself after a poor first-day pool-play showing and bulldozed its way to its fifth Far East Division I Tournament finals appearance, winning the title by downing Guam 8-1.
For her individual performance and that of her team, Danielsen has edged out a crowded field of nominees for Stars and Stripes Pacific high school softball Athlete of the Year honors.
“She’s an impressive player,” said Debbie Tomas, one of three Panthers assistant coaches, of Danielsen.
Unlike many freshmen, Danielsen is far from new to the game. She also plays for the Lady Ambassadors club program on Okinawa and played travel ball in the States before coming to Okinawa last year.
She did not miss a start in 19 games this season, also seeing time at first base and pitching in two games, winning one for the Panthers.
Batting mostly out of the third spot in the lineup before being moved to leadoff for Far East, Danielsen batted a team-leading .667 an onbase percentage of .740, and a slugging average of .900, with six doubles, four triples, 22 RBIs and five stolen bases.
“Every time she went to bat, she produced consistently,” Tomas said. “On the bases, she was very quick, smart and assertive in baserunning.”
She was equally skilled with the glove, handling 46 chances, making 19 assists and 23 putouts while committing four errors for a .913 fielding percentage, regular season and Far East.
“She fielded every ball that came to her,” Tomas said. “She was very reliable in that aspect. She had one of the strongest arms out there.”
One part of the game that can’t be quantified by stats, Tomas said, was Danielsen’s softball IQ. “It’s definitely high,” she said. “She has smarts and is very aware in all aspects of the game. She can read the whole field.”
All those qualities “make her outshine the others,” Tomas said.
All-Far East softball team: Bailey Prince, Peyton Lettkeman, Brianna Wilson, Kadena; Julia Ring, Seoul American; Beverly Smithers, Kelly Osterbrink, Nile C. Kinnick; Ciera Farias, Osan American; Christina Henry, Daegu High; Selene Castro, Humphreys High.