Senior softball player Makenzie Jankowski of Bristol Eastern and sophomore golfer Ryne Salius of St. Paul are the “Athlete of the Week” picks for area scholastic sports.
Jankowski, the daughter of Robert and the late Tricia Jankowski, an all-conference pick last season, helped the Lancers to a 4-0 record last week as they improved to 14-2 overall.
She went 10-for-17 at the plate, including a triple, while scoring eight runs and recording four RBI, two walks and two stolen bases.
Overall for the season, she has a .470 batting average, .507 on-base percentage and .545 slugging percentage, along with 11 RBI, five walks and three strikeouts.
Her coach, Scott Redman, is pleased with her play.
“Makenzie has played softball her entire life and isn’t done yet; she will continue her career at Keene State next year,” Redman said. “She is a relentless competitor, which motivates her to try and outwork everyone around her.
“As a player, she is a phenomenal outfielder who prides herself on tracking down fly balls that others are not able to get to. She also has a strong throwing arm and really gives her pitchers the confidence that they can throw strikes and pitch to contact.
“At the plate, Makenzie balances power with speed and when she wants to can hit to all fields with power. She is an extremely tough out, evidenced by her .507 on-base percentage.
“When her high school career is finished, Mak will have left a positive impact on the Lancers softball team and will be something the younger players can strive for.”
Jankowski said that she is enjoying the season.
“It’s [been] amazing, because we’ve good chemistry and we trust each other and know that someone will get a hit when they get up,” Jankowski said.
“Last year we struggled because we lost our pitcher and we had people play positions they wouldn’t naturally play. So we didn’t think we’d do as well as we are.
“I’m happy with this season because we have four freshmen and they’re all great and our seniors are leading the team.”
Jankowski said the team has many goals.
“One was win the CCC conference and then beat [Bristol] Central,” Jankowski said. “We beat them once [this season] and we’ll play them again this year. This is my fourth year on varsity and this was the first time we beat them.
“Our team goals are numbers, that’s suicide bunts, limiting the number of errors and our overall team batting average.”
When asked about what she likes about softball, she had a number of reasons, including dealing with her mother’s passing in 2015.
“It’s my escape so to speak,” Jankowski said. “Mom wasn’t athletic, but she’d go outside and pitch to me and things like that. It gets me out of the house, I live in my mother’s house. Going to school and playing gives me something to do.”
Salius, the son of Chris and Tina Salius of Torrington, gets his second “AOW” nod, having been selected as a freshman last year. He and his teammates are 10-4 on the season entering this week and he’s looking for everyone to get lower scores.
“We’re pretty good,” Salius said. “We started off slow and we just settled in now. We lost two seniors to graduation and our goal as a team is to win the city championship.”
Last year St. Paul captured the city team title, while Salius won top individual honors.
“He’s our No. 1 golfer,” coach John O’Dell said. “He’s a great kid who works hard and never misses practice. He’s a gifted golfer from a nice family.”
O’Dell added that the Berkshire League has a lot of good golfers and Salius is edging his way toward a possible all-conference nod, one he just missed out on in 2016. Six are selected and it won’t be easy, but the Falcons’ No. 1 player could have a chance depending how he plays over the remaining part of the season.
Asked about goals this spring, Salius said it would be to defend the team and his individual city crown. He added that he would like the team to be top 10-ranked in the state, while personally finishing the season shooting in the 30s. His best career scores are shooting 33 twice for nine holes and 70 twice for 18.
He added that putting is his strongest stroke and said that he’s neither a long ball or short ball hitter, being somewhere in the middle. He said he gets nervous when he tees off on the first hole, but always settles down afterwards. That comfortableness also comes with his getting to know a lot of the players from other schools.
His long term plans golf-wise: “I want to play in college and I’ll probably study business,” Salius said. “I want to be a teaching pro at a golf course. I think that’s possible.”
In the meantime, he still has another two full seasons of high school golf to hone his skills and gain more experience.
Contact Bob Montgomery at firstname.lastname@example.org.