All roads lead home

How SRU softball athletes lead through perseverance

Published by Alex Hanczar, Date: April 25, 2024
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Through all the ups and downs, SRU softball has stayed consistent through leadership.

Whether it be weather delays, cancellations or even the COVID-19 pandemic, softball is a sport of constant change.

Seniors Mackenzie Freeman and Kelsi Anderson both know this and have learned through experience just how important it is to be a leader.

COVID-19 affected athletes in devastating ways: schedule changes, the possibility of a canceled season and all the hard work that had been done could go to shame.

“Four years ago, we did not even know if we were going to have a season, because of COVID,” Freeman said. “It is crazy to see how far I have come since freshman year.”

Freeman began her journey at SRU out of the starting lineup and was forced to claw her way in.

Her early setbacks did not stop her from fighting and ultimately earning what she knew was deserved. Not playing and being in the lineup fueled the infielder’s fire to work hard and reach the top.

Fast forward to 2024, the Georgetown, Pa. native is in the starting lineup and is looked at as one of the biggest motivators on the squad.

“I am a very vocal person and whether I am in the dugout, playing or not, I have embraced my role of keeping the dugout alive and making sure energy is up, which I think has fed off to the underclassmen,” Freeman said.

Freeman has enjoyed being honest about her experiences and sharing them with underclassmen. Her leadership through transparency has created an excellent bond between her and her teammates.

These values have been passed to Freeman by previous Rock softball athletes.

SRU alumna Regan Hozak attended high school with Freeman and ensured that everything was always good with her off the field.

Alumna Cami Fisk was also an instrumental piece in shaping Freeman’s leadership. Freeman mentioned that Fisk was constantly there, helping with the little things in the most respectful of ways.

Off the field, Freeman brought up Joshua Strelbicki as a huge teacher of all she has learned.

Strelbicki works with the Children’s Advocacy Center of Butler County and meets with The Rock softball team once a month. Here, Strelbicki conducts team bonding exercises, a practice that has been ongoing since Freeman’s first year.

“It has been a very interesting experience,” Freeman said. “I have learned so much from him.”

Freeman explained that she learned how to interact with teammates when they are down and how to utilize proper techniques to build them back up.

Teammate Anderson shares these practices, along with the Slippery Rock softball journey.

However, Anderson’s journey to a leadership role has been slightly different from Freeman’s.

Since 2021, Anderson has been a clear top player in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC). The pitcher appeared in 24 games while starting 19 in just her first year.

Since then, the Dublin, Ohio native has gone on to become the Slippery Rock program leader in strikeouts, wins and starts.

The senior was also named to the 2023 First Team All PSAC-West.

Her accomplishments never led her astray, and she has always remained appreciative of her teammates and the support she has.

“It’s almost like we are all sisters,” Anderson said. “We are always hanging out, always supporting each other, if something is happening, we are always there for each other.”

Like Freeman, Anderson’s message to the younger group is “trust the process.”

Anderson’s journey has gone like the snap of a finger. She preaches to all of her teammates that cherishing the moments are key.

“Some days are better than others, but at the end of the day, the whole process is all worth it,” Anderson said. “Keep pushing through, keep being yourself, do all you can, and it is all going to be worth it at the end of the day.”

The left-handed pitcher admitted that there have been tough moments for her this year, but her teammates have helped her get through it all.

Her success would not be possible without the everlasting support and bond that has been built with her teammates.

“I am just so thankful for the coaches, all the players here, and the alumni I have gotten to play with,” Anderson said. “I have just had such a great opportunity and experience with every one of these players, and that is something that will always stick to my heart.”

Freeman and Anderson have been a part of an incredible ride that has not always been easy.

The way each of them has responded and preached their messages shows that everything will work itself out and all roads will lead home.

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Alex is a senior majoring in Strategic Communication and Media with a concentration in multimedia journalism. He serves as the assistant sports editor. This is his first semester on The Rocket staff, but he contributed to the sports section in Spring 2023. In his free time he enjoys spending time with friends, watching sports and staying busy.

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