When McKenna Isenberg’s eighth-grade softball coach asked if anyone would like to try pitching to provide some relief for the team’s lone hurler, Isenberg raised her hand.
The then 13-year-old was an outfielder who had never pitched before, but Isenberg had become bored with her position and desired one with a little more action.
“The pitcher at the time was always the spotlight,” she said. “Everything revolved around her. I told my Dad, ‘I want to be worthy. I want someone to be talking about me.’”
Four years later, Isenberg is the starting pitcher at Tempe’s Corona del Sol, is a preseason American Family Insurance All-USA Arizona selection and has committed to play at the University of Nevada next year. She notes that fateful day in junior high as the turning point in her career.
“I definitely would not be where I am today if I didn’t decide to pitch,” she said. “I probably would never have made the team freshman year here at Corona.”
Isenberg is entering her fourth year on varsity, but after battling infectious mononucleosis her sophomore year and a shoulder injury her junior year, she has only pitched one full season.
This year, she is taking precautions to stay healthy and injury-free.
“Sometimes, I’ll get in trouble for stretching too long,” she said, laughing. “I do extra stretching so I don’t get hurt. I also have a personal trainer. I’m trying to get stronger so injuries won’t wear me down.”
Isenberg is 3-1 with a 2.18 ERA. She has struck out 70 batters in 35 1/3 innings, nearly two per frame. She threw a perfect game in a 1-0 win over Seton Catholic on Feb. 23, striking out 14.
Corona del Sol coach Jeep Ray said Isenberg’s composure on the mound is the senior’s biggest strength.
“If you walked up and didn’t know the score or whether we were home or away, you wouldn’t know by looking at her,” Ray said.
Isenberg, one of five seniors on this year’s squad, is not the most vocal on the field, Ray said, but she’s also not afraid to speak up and voice her opinion when it counts. And when she does talk, Ray said, her teammates listen.
“She’s an example on and off the field,” Ray said. “In the classroom, she does well. She’s very respectful, and people like her.”
She may not show it, but Isenberg said she does feel the pressure as Corona del Sol’s No. 1 pitcher.
“I carry all the weight on my shoulders,” she said. “So, if something happens, I blame it on me. If we lose a game, I don’t blame it on our hitting, I blame it on what I did or what I could have done better.”
With her future secured, Isenberg is concentrating this season on improving her game and finding a way to leave her mark.
“I just want to be better than I have the last three years,” she said. “I just want to make it through the whole year with no injuries, and I want to do good on my terms.”