Makawe leads softball emotionally in conference championship run

Makawe leads softball emotionally in conference championship run

Makawe leads softball emotionally in conference championship run
April 14
12:25 2018

On March 24, North Texas was on the verge of blowing a 4-1 lead in the seventh inning to Conference USA rival, Louisiana Tech in a pivotal meeting between two of the top teams record-wise in the conference.

The bases were loaded with only one out as North Texas led 4-3. A base hit could have easily tied the game or even put the Lady Techsters ahead.

The following Louisiana Tech hitter ripped the ball dangerously down the right field line, but junior first baseman Rhylie Makawe was waiting for it. Makawe snagged the the line drive out of the air and quickly turned around, dove full extension and tagged first base to complete the game saving double play.

The play once again proved what her coaches and teammates have said of Makawe all season.

“Rhylie is one of the most passionate and grittiest kids I’ve ever coached, and I have been in the profession for over 27 years,” head coach Tracey Kee said. “She’s just special. You never have to question her energy or focus.”

Halfway through her junior season, Makawe has established herself as one of the true leaders of the team. Her .317 batting average is good for third best on the team. But it’s not her numbers that make her who she is.

“We feed off of her energy,” Kee said. “Rhylie is the most consistent with it, and a lot of that stems from the fact she wants to win and understands the importance of being part of the team, and she has to sacrifice herself for her teammates.”

Coming from Aledo, Texas, Makawe’s recruiting journey was rather unique. Despite living less than an hour from Denton, it was not until Makawe was in another tournament out of the state that she was noticed by Kee.

“She had kind of been secretly watching me,” Makawe said. “She finally showed interest at a tournament in Colorado and I was like, ‘Wow we’re only like 10 hours away.’”

Makawe admits that the close distance to her hometown was the biggest reason for her decision to come to North Texas, but that does not take away from the fact that she was still very excited to enter such a welcoming program.

“It was nice being so close to home, so it’s easy for my family to come watch me play, but it was also just the unique personality of coach Kee,” Makawe said.

However, Makawe was not the only prospect on her high school team that Kee was watching. Medical redshirt junior pitcher Lauren Craine has been by the side of Makawe since their younger years and achieved their dream of playing collegiate softball together.

“Rhylie and I have been close for a really long time now,” Craine said. “We started playing when we were really young, so I consider one of my really close friends, and I love her to death.”

Being the closest to her, Craine has also noticed the changes that Makawe has made since her high school days. Throughout their four year run at Aledo High School, Makawe was not the everyday first baseman like she is now for the Mean Green.

It has been a role Makawe has grown into after her younger years.

“She played second base in high school primarily and outfielder when we were growing up,” Craine said. “So seeing her transition into this awesome first baseman has been really cool.”

Makawe’s personality plays a big factor on the field for the Mean Green, but her unselfish and “dirtbag” type of play style — as Kee calls it — models what Mean Green softball is all about. She has been a perfect leader and presence for Kee and the coaching staff with her mentality.

“If you focus solely on individual purposes, that’s just not what a team is about,” Makawe said. “If you want to go far, you can’t go as an individual. It takes everyone.”

Now, in her third year with the program and with 128 starts under her belt, Makawe has developed into one of the leaders of the team. And Kee is not the only one who has noticed. Makawe catches the eye of just about any team every time North Texas steps out on to the field and does not even have to put up big numbers to accomplish that.

“If you can have an entire team of kids like her, I think every coach in the nation would want that,” Kee said. “When other coaches talk about your first baseman and how they play the game right, it’s a compliment to her, our program and our university.”

Featured image: North Texas junior Rhylie Makawe claps while running to third base in a game against the University of Texas at Arlington on March 4 at Lovelace Stadium. Sara Carpenter

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Luis Diosdado

Luis Diosdado

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