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UPDATE: Penn State Behrend’s Cami McNany Named AMCC Softball Player of the Year

(Note: This story was originally posted Wednesday before the announcement of the AMCC all-star teams)

ERIE, Pa. (EYT/D9) — It was the worst start imaginable for Cami McNany.

(Photo courtesy of Penn State Behrend)

The A-C Valley softball star stepped onto the field at Penn State Behrend in the spring of 2019 as one of the school’s top recruits. After a scintillating fall season, there was a palpable buzz about McNany.

“Everyone said, ‘Oh, we’re so happy to get a recruit like you,’” McNany said. “Everyone was hyping me up so much.”

The freshman was quickly humbled. When the real season began, she was mired in an 0-for-17 slump.

For the first time in her life, doubts began creeping into the Emlenton native’s mind. She wondered if she had what it took to be a star at the next level after putting up unreal numbers in her time in high school with the Falcons.

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“We went to Florida and I just crapped out on them, I’d say. They were like, ‘What the heck is going on?’” McNany said. “I was just getting pounded at-bat after at-bat. I was putting the ball in play, but it just wasn’t solid contact.”

She had shown signs of breaking out of it when COVID-19 swept the country and forced the shutdown of the season.

Last year was a redemption of sorts for McNany, who put together a solid campaign for Behrend. She batted .381 with 15 doubles and 30 RBIs in 33 games.

But she still wasn’t satisfied. That self-doubt and unease was still there.

McNany vowed to put all that behind her this year.

Finally, she unshackled herself from expectations and got back to why she played softball to begin with.

It has opened up a new world for McNany at Behrend, one that has resulted in a .509 average, two home runs, 11 doubles and a team-leading 41 RBIs so far for the Lions.

She’s recorded 12 multi-hit games and at least one hit in every conference game.

McNany is a big reason why the Lions won the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference championship.

On Thursday, McNany was named the AMCC Softball Player of the Year.

“It’s never been about performance for me, but frustration in the mental side of the game,” McNany said. “I’ve had a lot of conversations with our assistant coach about finding my love for the game again and figuring out why I’m here and why I do this.

“I play the game for myself and there’s no place I’d rather be than on the softball diamond,” she added. “It’s really come full circle. I started enjoying my time out in the field again and realized, at some point, I’m gonna hang the cleats up and I better enjoy it. We’ve come a long way since I found that piece of my heart.”

McNany caught just about every game last season and she admitted it wore on her. By the end of the season, her energy was sapped and it showed up in the box score.

This year, she’s been helped behind the plate by another McNany — freshman Jocelyn from Seneca Valley. The two didn’t know each other before they became teammates, and through some family tree investigation, discovered they had at least one branch in common — they are distant cousins.

Jocelyn has caught the bulk doubleheader nightcaps, which has kept Cami fresh.

“I realized I couldn’t catch all these game this year,” Cami McNany said. “By the end of last season, by bat wasn’t there. Our freshman back there has helped me get that break and get my body in the right place.”

There’s no doubt about McNany’s hitting ability now at the collegiate level after the inauspicious start to her career.

A trait she carried over from high school is her uncanny ability to make contact. She’s only struck out 11 times in 230 at-bats at Penn State Behrend — a remarkable stat.

At A-C Valley, McNany was as tough an out as there was.

She hit a gaudy .600 in her four-year career, including a .704 average as a junior and a .660/.962/1.639 slash line as a senior.

In 247 high school plate appearances, McNany struck out nine times.

“I’d love for that stat to be zero,” McNany said, chuckling. “I just do what I can up there. Anybody who knows me knows I don’t like to get into deep counts, so I look for my pitch right off the bat. I want to hit my pitch. I don’t want to hit the pitcher’s pitch. I want to be in control, and with that mentality, I do what I want and nobody can really stop me.”

McNany is at her best with runners on base.

Her 41 RBIs this season in so few at-bats speak to that.

“I don’t really like leading off an inning,” she said, chuckling. “They always tell me when I go up to bat with no one on base to pretend there’s ghosties out there on the bases because I’m sure the numbers I get are a lot better with runners in scoring position.”

Behrend will begin the NCAA Regional Tournament Friday at Trine University in Indiana against North Central (Illinois).

The Lions (23-13) scuffled at the start of the season, getting out of the gate at 2-6, but have peaked down the stretch with seven straight wins, including knocking off nemesis Medaille, 3-0, and then sweeping Penn State Altoona, 5-3 and 5-2, to win the conference championship.

“It was awesome,” McNany said. “We came out of Florida at the start of the year with not the record we wanted and we knew we needed a good record to make the NCAA Tournament, which is always our end goal.”

There is a distinct District 9 flavor on the Behrend roster.

In addition to McNany, DuBois grad and senior Kylee Bundy had a strong year, batting .295.

Junior Maddie Smith, also a DuBois grad, and sophomore Britney Shaw, a native of St. Marys, are on the team as well.

“Oh, yeah, we have all the D9 girls up here,” McNany said. “I think we’re really making an impact and making D9 proud.”

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.