Specialization is good to a point. But finding someone who can multi-task can take care of more problems than just one.
Maranda McCaskill is just such a person.
Rather than playing just one position on the softball field, she can be utilized in several. For that reason, among others, Florence-Darlington Technical College extended an offer to the North Central High School senior to make her a part of its program. After some deliberation and soul-searching, McCaskill signed on with the Stingers.
McCaskill’s decision was simplified by the passing of her grandmother in April. It was then that she knew what she needed to do and where she needed to be.
"It’s close to home and my grandma just passed away on April 10," she said of her decision to sign with the two-year junior college program. "I was going to go somewhere far away but now, it’s just me and my dad so I was like, ‘Why not stay somewhere close to home.’"
Used primarily as a first baseman by Lady Knights’ head coach Mike Grigsby, McCaskill was more than just someone who could play that post. When the need would arise, she could don another glove and play virtually any place on the field. That, Grigsby said, is an ace in the hole for a coach with a short or, even a deep, roster.
"This year," Grigsby said, "Maranda was willing to play wherever we needed her to play. She went behind the plate, played some outfield but mostly, she played first base for us. The willingness to go in and play any spot is one the key attributes which she brings to the table."
And, Grigsby said, being able to play more than one position makes McCaskill a valuable commodity while also allowing her the opportunity to get early playing time in college.
"I think that will help her a lot," Grigsby said of McCaskill’s ability to play more than one spot in the field. "You just never know what they are going to need and if you are willing to move around, then you have a chance to play.
"Nobody wants to sit on the bench and the easiest way to avoid that is to find a place that nobody wants to play and make that position yours. You can take it over. I think Maranda can play a lot of positions in the field for them."
During her recruitment, McCaskill was told that she will get the chance to play at shortstop for the Stingers. It is a move which she eagerly anticipates making.
"It’s going to be different because I was a first baseman in high school; I only have one eye," she said of moving a few yards to her right and the challenge which she has overcome in her life. "And now, I’m going to be playing shortstop. I’ve played travel ball my whole life and I like shortstop better than first base anyway. It should be a lot of fun."
During the summer months, McCaskill played travel ball with the Kershaw-based Dirt Diamonds. Among her teammates were several players from Central High School in Pageland who have or, will be making their way to play at Florence-Darlington Tech. That gives McCaskill a comfort level as she moves to a new school.
When asked the biggest adjustment in going from high school to college, McCaskill said "Making friends and people you get along with and meeting new people" is a challenge for her and for all freshmen. Knowing some of her soon-to-be teammates should help ease the transition phase.
"I know a few of them who are from Central of Pageland," she said of her former Dirt Diamond teammates who are now Stingers. "I played travel ball with them. That’s one of the reasons I picked Florence Darlington, because I already knew some of the players."
Playing softball for better than half a calendar year will come in handy as she plays in college where any sport become a year ‘round proposition. That will lead McCaskill to changing her priorities for what, in high school, would be her off-season.
"It’s going to cut down on my playing other sports," she said. "Normally, I’ve played football, basketball and everything. Now, it’s going to be softball year ‘round. I have to focus on grades and softball year ‘round."
While her glove has led to her playing all over the field, Grigsby said McCaskill’s biggest challenge -- as is the case for most freshmen -- will be getting used to seeing better pitching than they faced in high school softball.
"I think the hitting part is going to be the toughest because you are facing better pitchers," he said. "She’s going to have to take a lot of batting practice to get used to the speed of college pitching."
McCaskill said she is ready to see livelier arms and has this philosophy on facing faster pitches to the plate. "The faster the pitch, the farther the ball goes. I like to see fast pitching so it will be better."
Grigsby was also quick to point out that McCaskill is a young lady who will not be denied and will do what it takes to be successful.
"Maranda’s a good fielder and she is a good hitter, too, she is just going to have to work at it," Grigsby said. "But she does like to work. The fact is, her willingness to move around is an indication that she likes to work. She was willing to do whatever we needed her to do."
Saying she was more excited than nervous about what lies ahead at Florence-Darlington Tech, McCaskill said she is ready to see what is next for her athletically, academically and socially as she leaves a place she has known and teammates she has played alongside for six years.
"That’s the hard part," she said of leaving North Central. "I think it’s going to be pretty hard getting to know new people. I’m used to my friends here. I’ve been with them since the sixth grade. It’s going to be a lot different with new people."
For his part, Grigsby is confident that Maranda McCaskill will be able to handle whatever comes her way with the same attitude as she did when asked to play a different position in softball.
"Maranda works hard and I think she will have a good time," he said with a smile. "That’s half the battle right there; having a good time and learning some additional things about softball."