Keystone's Kenzie Conrad starring at bat, in circle
Senior is developing a reputation for long home runs for Ohio's top-ranked Division II team.
Friday, April 27, 2012
By: Jarrod Ulrey | MaxPreps.com
Photo by Scott Seighman
Kenzie Conrad wasn't always a power hitter. But after a growth spurt, she's powering Keystone to prominence in Ohio, using her bat and her pitching arm.
The reputation of
Keystone (La Grange, Ohio) softball player
Kenzie Conrad added another dimension April 20 during the 19th
Wendy's Spring Classic at Ashland's Brookside Park.
In the fifth inning of her team's 5-1 victory over Bartlett (Ill.) that day, Conrad slammed a two-run homer that traveled what coach Jim Piazza estimated to be 260 feet — clearing both the 200-foot home run fence and the 8-foot outer fence.
Photo by Scott Seighman
Conrad went 41-5 up until her senior
Moon shots such as that have become recent phenomenons for the 5-foot-10 senior,
who slugged her eighth home run April 23 during a 19-5 win over Wellington for a
Wildcats team that improved to 16-0.
"Last year was actually the first year I hit home runs," Conrad said. "My freshman year I was more of a slapper, but I hit a growth spurt and became a power hitter."
Conrad, who remembers being about 5-7, 130 pounds as a freshman, also has added significant muscle the last two years. From 2009-11, the Wildcats went 85-11 with three Division II district championships and a state runner-up finish last spring, and Conrad batted .404 with 12 home runs during that time.
Also one of the state's top pitchers, Conrad went 41-5 with 292 strikeouts and a 0.79 ERA through her first three prep seasons.
This spring, she's already off to a blazing start at the plate and in the circle. Through 15 games, Conrad was batting .405 with 22 RBIs and 14 runs scored for the state's top-ranked team. She also was 10-0 with a 0.36 ERA with 75 strikeouts and just 11 walks in 58 innings.
"She puts a lot of extra time in and loves to lift weights and loves to work out," Piazza said. "She's got a good group of kids around her that has helped her become the player that she is, and she's just very down to earth. She loves to work hard and is a very competitive, all-around great kid."
Last November, Conrad was one of five Keystone seniors to sign letters of intent to compete collegiately. She and Erin Pond (SS) will play for the University of Akron, Alisha Silva (2B) and Alyson Broschk (RF) signed with Cleveland State and Bri Buckley (C) signed with Ashland.
Conrad's ascension into softball prominence has been new to the Conrad family. Her mother, Lois Conrad, is a Clyde (Ohio) graduate who played basketball for Tiffin University from 1985-89 and is a member of the school's Hall of Fame. Her father, Mike Conrad, is a Keystone graduate who played basketball for Tiffin from 1987-89.
Kenzie, who was the Cleveland Plain Dealer Softball Player of the Year last season, is a Grafton resident who has been open-enrolled in the Keystone school district since the fifth grade. She has inherited her height from her 6-3 father, who also has been her travel team coach the last several years with the Tidalwaves program. Her brother C.J., who is a freshman at Keystone, is a 6-3 basketball player.
Mike coaches the 18U Tidalwaves team of which Broschk, Silva, Buckley and his daughter all play for.
"When I was 10, my dad knew nothing about softball," Kenzie said. "He's really grown as a softball coach and has grown to love softball. We're a softball family now.
"When I was little I wasn't very good at softball, but when I was 14 I started hitting a growth spurt. My dad was a little iffy about keeping me as a pitcher but people told us to just stick it out. Thank God we did."
Kenzie is planning to major in exercise science and pre-physical therapy at Akron, with the hope of eventually becoming a physical therapist. She's also got one final remaining high school goal: Winning the state championship.
Photo by Scott Seighman
On April 21 in the Wendy's Spring Classic, Kenzie hit two home runs as the
Wildcats won 13-4 over Lakewood (Hebron, Ohio) — the same team that beat
Keystone 5-0 in a 2010 regional semifinal and went on to win the state title
Last season, she went 22-2 with a 0.98 ERA and tossed three no-hitters, including a perfect game as the Wildcats finished 32-2. Keystone beat St. Francis DeSales (Columbus) 5-3 in a state semifinal in Akron Firestone Stadium as Conrad pitched a complete game for the win. Then in the state final, however, the Wildcats committed two errors and tallied just one hit on the way to a 4-0 loss to Poland Seminary.
Kenzie was 0-for-3 at the plate and struck out four while giving up two earned runs in seven innings as she was outdueled by Bulldogs ace Erin Gabriel. Gabriel, a senior who has signed to play for Tennessee, struck out 10 and walked just one while also driving in the game's final run with a sacrifice fly during a three-run seventh. Poland Seminary is ranked second in the state poll.
"Oh my gosh, that (game) changed everything," Kenzie said. "We knew we didn't want to feel the way we felt that game ever again. This is our last shot. In the offseason we decided we were going to do what we have to to get the state championship.
"Last year, we didn't have a lot of downfalls. A lot of the girls worked on their strength training. (Gabriel and I) have played against each other a couple of times. Hopefully that'll be the matchup again in the state championship game."