Makensy Payne is looking to make a quick jump.
The 20-year-old Collège Pierre-Elliot-Trudeau graduate spent the last two years as an infielder for the Dodge City Community College Conquistadors women’s softball team, a junior college squad, and is set to make her debut with the Southwestern Oklahoma State University Bulldogs (16-36 last season) this spring. She said it’s been a marked increase in competition, but Payne feels she’s fitting into the team well.
"It’s the next step, for sure," said Payne, who was named as a Region VI Second Team Selection and an All-Jayhawk West Conference First Team Selection for the 22-23 Conquistadors this past season. "I feel like junior college prepared me for it, but it’s definitely different."
Payne noted the Bulldogs’ practices are sometimes four hours in duration, and there is an increased focus on weight training.
In addition to a willingness to work, Payne described herself as strong in the field.
"Defence is my strong suit," she said. "I’m not afraid of the ball — I’ll lay out for it no matter what. I have a good idea of where the play is always going."
She said her offence has improved, though, as Dodge City head coach Howie Smith was able to improve her swing — she batted .380 with two home runs and seven stolen bases in 2013.
"I have great hands. I can contact the ball well, but I’ve never really been a power hitter," Payne said. "You don’t have to be big to hit the ball far, you just have to swing faster."
Bulldogs head coach Tami Loy is excited to add Payne to this year’s roster, praising her heart and work ethic.
"She is a hard-working young lady. She is going to contribute quite a bit," Loy said. "She’s been doing the little things we’ve really asked her to do, improving on her bat speed, working really hard in the weight room."
Loy, who has worked with Smith to make a player pipeline from the Conquistadors to her club, said the Bulldogs are stocked with power hitters, so Payne’s ability to hit line drives to get on base will be welcomed.
Payne, who stands 5-3, got a big boost of confidence this summer when she made the provincial team that qualified for the Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke, Que. in August.
Team Manitoba upset Team Quebec in the semifinals, rallying from an early four-run deficit to win the game 6-5. In the final, Manitoba lost 9-1 to British Columbia to settle for silver.
"The home parents were razzing our teammates — most of our teammates could speak French, too, so (with) all that, there was tension," Payne said. "It was awesome, though, to win after that. After that game, we felt like we had won the gold-medal game."
Manitoba lost just twice in 11 games at the tournament, and Payne credited coach Haylee O’Neill with preparing the team well, including practising in the rain and doing hot yoga to prepare for the heat.