JENNIFER FIERRO • STAFF WRITER
BURNET — Even when a younger Makenzie Carpenter was learning the sport of softball, people knew she had a special skill. As a child, the Burnet High School pitcher could easily locate her spots while maintaining velocity.
She improved on that talent through the years, becoming a vital asset for the Lady Dawgs softball team the last two years.
In 2015, she led the squad to a 22-6-1 record and a bi-district championship, the program’s first postseason win. In 2014, Burnet had a 19-9 record and missed the playoffs.
Carpenter was named the team’s Most Valuable Player the past two seasons and was the District 25-4A Pitcher of the Year in 2015 with an ERA of 0.32. In 2014, her ERA was 1.67.
In her varsity debut as a freshman while at Marble Falls High School, Carpenter tossed a perfect game with 19 strikeouts against Wimberley. She finished that season as a second team all-district selection.
She had 232 strikeouts in 2013, 246 in 2014 and 312 in 2015.
Now, Carpenter has taken the next step in her softball development. On Nov. 17, she signed to play the sport for the University of Louisiana-Lafayette.
The Ragin’ Cajuns are members of the Sunbelt Conference, where they have accumulated a 245-43 record since 2001 with 12 regular-season conference titles, 24 NCAA tournament appearances, five Super Regional appearances with a 6-7 record and a Women’s College World Series record of 6-12 thanks to six different appearances.
Burnet head softball coach Corey Bledsoe said that while Carpenter’s natural ability shines, what makes her a college prospect are her other traits.
“She is talented, obviously,” he said. “She’s the perfect fit for Lafayette. (Ragin’ Cajuns) coach (Michael Lotief) talks about character and leadership and work ethic.”
The athlete also is a good student, which was a bonus for Lotief, Bledsoe said.
And she has improved her mental toughness, he said, showing the ability to bounce back from a rough outing in one game and pitch better in a must-win contest, which was the case in the area round of the playoffs last spring.
Though the Lady Dawgs lost the series to eventual state runner-up Needville, Carpenter’s growth was evident.
Needville took the first game 11-1 in six innings with Carpenter pitching. Teammate Amber Womack started the second contest, a must-win if the Lady Dawgs wanted to extend their season. Womack allowed one earned run and one unearned run in 5⅔ innings, and Burnet trailed 2-0. With one out needed and the bases loaded, Carpenter returned to the pitcher’s circle and got a groundout to end the threat.
In the bottom of the sixth with two outs, Carpenter hit an RBI double to start a three-run rally for Burnet and finished the job in the seventh on the mound and then at bat, clearing the bases with a three-run shot for a 6-3 victory.
“That’s something I try to tell our girls,” Bledsoe said. “You have to be mentally driven. What I love about Makenzie is we’re not worried about what the other team does. She attacks them.”
Carpenter has at least six pitches and throws in the mid- to upper 60s, which is equivalent to the mid-90s for baseball pitchers.
She is daughter of Amanda and Brian Carpenter, a former Marble Falls High School baseball pitcher who played at Baylor University and then spent some time in the farm systems of a handful of Major League Baseball teams.
“I’m super proud of Makenzie,” Bledsoe said. “I think this school is going to be a perfect fit.”