WHEELERSBURG — Perhaps Macee Eaton’s easiest part of playing softball is hitting home runs.
After all, she blasted for 20 last season —one of which against West was still in orbit over Wheelersburg and beyond Gene Bennett Park, at least last we checked.
For her 34th home run of her highly-decorated two-year high school softball career, it indeed was a shot heard around Akron —and as far south as Pirate Country.
That solo homer essentially clinched the Pirates’ second softball state championship in program history —and it was fitting for Eaton to be the one driving home an exclamation-point power ball.
Eaton’s accolades, already, include two-time Division III all-Ohio first-team selection,Southeast District awards galore, two-time National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-American, now a state softball champion, and as of 10 days ago —an official signee with the University of Virginia to continue her academic and athletic career.
Eaton earned third-team All-American as a sophomore, and second-team All-American as a junior.
There were only 36 players to make second-team All-America in 2022, and she was the second-ranked first baseman in the entire United States.
Only one young lady, which is bound for Oklahoma, hit more home runs (25) than Eaton —but she played in five more games.
Teresa Ruby, the highly-successful Lady Pirates head coach, is an “advocate” of the NFCA — in other words has maintained membership in the association for several seasons.
Had there been her freshman season, for which somebody and somewhere still owes her and the Lady Pirates an engraved apology, safe bets are that she would have made that All-American list —and possibly, even likely, surpassed 50 home runs by now.
But those closest to Eaton —fellow Pirates, coaches, family members and friends —all have one common denominator to describe the senior.
That’s being a good teammate.
Check that actually, a great teammate.
Simply put, players like Eaton are once-in-a-generation finds.
We’re witnessing some softball greatness, and we should sit back in amazement —and enjoyment.
We’ve only got her for one more season with Wheelersburg.
But her signing ceremony, and our Portsmouth Daily Times interviews and even casual conversations with her and others, revealed a deeper —more quality character trait —that Eaton possesses.
That’s being a great teammate.
As Eaton does have softball star-power, and gains a myriad of media attention, it would be easy for her to come off as aloof —even arrogant and vain as some players put on unfortunately.
As we were informed, when she visits her young cousins, she spends her time actually playing and interacting with them —when it would be easy for her to occupy herself on her phone.
But to demonstrate her teammates’ enjoyment of Eaton, there were not one — but count ‘em two — scheduled photo sessions that weeknight Wednesday of her signing ceremony.
Speaking of photos, check out the one which supplements this piece.
It’s, as they say, worth 1,000 words —and 34 home runs.
Eaton was asked of observers’ opinions of her being a teammate, of which she referred to as a “sisterhood”.
“It’s going to be hard leaving all those friendships, because they are like my sisters,” she said. “The girls on our softball team here at Wheelersburg, they are my girls. They aren’t going to be replaced.”
Great teammates also dedicate the time, work and effort for their starting spots —and accolades.
Eaton is well-aware of what’s ahead —as Virginia is a Division I program, and a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
It’s a realistic dream she has chased since the age of 13, as she has played travel softball for a decade.
“When I get there, I am going to compete and I hope to have a starting position. But if I don’t, I’m going to work twice as hard to have one,” she said. “I’ve worked so hard at a young age, that now it’s constant. I just know what I have to do. If you don’t work hard, I feel like you won’t succeed. I have to work even harder to get on that softball field at the college level.”
“Macee has put in a tremendous amount of time and commitment to the game. It doesn’t take place at the high school practices. It takes place throughout the year and away from the field. She’s a great teammate, a great friend, a great lady. To me that’s even better,” added Ruby. “We talk about her work ethic, but she doesn’t ask anything of anybody else that she doesn’t do herself. She picks people up, doesn’t tear any of her teammates down, but she does push them and calls them out fairly when it’s needed. I think the sign of a great player is one who makes those around her better. And she does that.”
How so you ask?
With Wheelersburg putting opponents in a serious and constant dilemma, teams have to decide whether to intentionally walk Eaton —or not.
If you do walk her, as Cardington-Lincoln did during the state semifinal, aside from drawing the ire of passionate Pirate fans which want to see her hit home runs, you have to deal with her on the basepaths —and the other rock-solid bats which Wheelersburg has hitting behind her.
AndiJo Howard and Sydney Skiver, the four-hole and five-hole hitters behind the three-hole Eaton last season, come to immediate mind.
If you pitch to her, as Massillon Tuslaw did in the championship tilt, the end result often lands on the other side of the fence.
But Eaton, either way, is about the team goal first.
Thus, explains in part a softball state championship —and an opportunity for a third consecutive trip come June.
“It’s about setting the example and working hard,” said Ruby. “When you have one of your best players doing that, everybody seems to fit into the same fold. You don’t have to be best friends, but you have to be a good teammate. And Macee is a great teammate. She knows what that looks like.”
And for Eaton, that appears to be a senior slugger —taking aim and hitting more softballs into the stratosphere.