Versatility the name of the game for GVSU's Supernaw
Laker senior moves around the diamond on defense to aid team
GVL / Luke Holmes - McKenze Supernaw (3) gets ready to make the play at first base. Grand Valley State University defeated Northwood University in both games at the Grand Valley softball field Thursday, Apr. 7, 2016.
Behind her signature shades, senior McKenze Supernaw exudes confidence. While her intense stare is masked by black tint as she patrols first base, Supernaw’s versatility and unselfishness are tougher to disguise.
The Grand Valley State softball infielder has excelled as a utility player during her collegiate career. Supernaw, out of necessity, has changed positions the last three seasons to best accompany the Lakers' needs.
“(Supernaw) played outfield her sophomore year. Last year, she moved over to third base and had a great year,” said GVSU head coach Dana Callihan. “This year we had an injury, so we moved her over to first base. She liked third base, so that was a struggle for her mentally. But, at the same, she knew that was what the team needed and was willing to make that adjustment.”
The change of scenery has been ongoing since Supernaw arrived at GVSU. Recruited out of Fremont High School, she earned First Team All-State honors and led Fremont to its first regional championship in program history as a starting pitcher and shortstop.
Playing time, however, was scarce in Supernaw’s freshman season of college. The 2013 Lakers bolstered 14 upperclassmen who led the program to its second-ever appearance at the Division II Softball World Series. Supernaw played in 19 games and got 16 at-bats.
Willing to explore uncharted territory to be more involved, Supernaw was stationed in right field for the 2014 season.
“During travel ball seasons, I played pretty much every position out there—except for outfield, I stayed away from that,” Supernaw said. “So, outfield was probably the hardest. I had never played it before, and my sophomore year I was thrown out there. It’s completely different from third and first base, but it was fun.”
Supernaw certainly made it look fun, and didn’t look out of place. She recorded a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage, collecting all 42 fielding chances that went her way, also chipping in three outfield assists.
“As an outfielder, she was very good,” said junior Kelsey Dominguez. “She could throw a lot of people out with how strong her arm is.”
Leaving Dominguez behind in the outfield, Supernaw started all 49 games last season at her preferred position, third base. She was named to the All-GLIAC Second Team and earned NFCA All-Midwest Region Second Team honors.
The accolades confirmed Supernaw’s gradual improvement at the plate. She is a career .280 hitter, has driven in 69 RBIs and 35 percent of her hits have gone for extra bases. Her most recent RBIs came via a two-run blast in a 2-0 win against Saginaw Valley State on April 13.
Batting in the middle of the lineup, Supernaw still remains a threat every time she steps into the batter’s box, even though her numbers have declined slightly this season.
“Offensively, she has proven to herself that she can hit at this level,” Callihan said. “Defensively, she has really improved over the last two years. Once she sets her mind to something, she goes after it and gets it done.”
Her latest challenge is at first base. Supernaw made the Miguel Cabrera switch across the diamond after sophomore Heather Sperlazzo went down with a season-ending injury in the offseason.
Roommate and fellow senior Chelsea Horvath acknowledged Supernaw’s decision to step up and put the team first.
“She has taken on the role like a good leader and I wouldn’t expect anything less,” Horvath said. “I trust her there for sure. If you can handle the ball at third base, then you can handle the ball at first. She has embraced that chance.”
Horvath also added how difficult all these changes must have been for Supernaw.
“Obviously, it’s hard (learning a new position) at first because at this level you are kind of accustomed to a position,” she said. “At heart I’m an outfielder, if you put me in the infield it’s going to take a little bit. So, she has done a really good job with it.”
Supernaw’s dedication will leave a lasting impact on the program, alongside her fierce stare-downs.
“Probably my favorite memory is practicing with (Supernaw),” Dominguez said. “Having her give you that glare she has when she on the field. She is very scary when she is at third (base), so rounding second and seeing her I always try to make her laugh.”
Peering through her shades, it was only fitting Supernaw answered this rather pointless, yet amusing question in a serious tone: If needed, would she step back into the circle and pitch?
“In an extreme case—if all our pitchers got hurt—then yeah, I guess. But, other than that, no. My pitching days are done.”