In the annals of sibling history going back thousands of years, it appears the Fitzgerald girls of Mineola have done something unprecedented.
Senior softball shortstop Mackenzie Fitzgerald has been an anchor of the Mustangs team since eighth grade, overcoming injuries to earn herself a scholarship to Hofstra University next year.
This season, though, has been extra special for Fitzgerald, because when there’s a runner on first and a ground ball comes to her, she peeks toward second base to start a double play and sees a younger person who is always at the breakfast table each morning.
Eighth-grader Cassidy Fitzgerald makes up half of the sibling middle infield combo for the Mineola varsity this year, handling second base.
So, the Fitzgeralds were asked, do disagreements or fights from inside their house ever make it onto the dirt? Is there any carryover?
“We really don’t fight, ever,” Cassidy said, as both sisters dissolved into laughter.
“It’s true,” Mackenzie added. “We have some inside jokes that maybe come out on the field. But we really don’t argue. I’m really, really lucky I get to play with her this year.”
No fighting among siblings, ever? Call the Guinness Book of World Records people.
While Cassidy is just starting out, Mackenzie has proven to be the unquestioned leader with another outstanding season for Mineola.
The shortstop has helped the Mustangs go 11-2 through games of May 5, batting an eye-popping .675 with 10 doubles, 26 RBI and only two strikeouts in 50 plate appearances.
This after a junior season that saw Fitzgerald miss sometime late in the season with a knee injury but still bat .625 with 19 RBI.
Fitzgerald heaped praise on Monique Wink, in her first year as head coach of Mineola, as a major reason for the team’s success.
“She’s just wonderful; she makes every day amazing,” Fitzgerald said. “You’re never ever like ‘oh, I have softball practice today.’ It’s such an open environment, a family environment we have. You’re never afraid to make mistakes, and it’s made our team really really close.”
“She has raised her game 100% even from how good she was last year,” Wink said. “From a leadership role of getting the team fired up, to just crushing it as far as on-field performance. She’s just done everything for us.”
Wink said that it was Fitzgerald’s plate discipline and ability to turn any close pitch into an extra-base hit that set her apart.
“She just hunts strikes and really doesn’t try to go out of her comfort zone and swing at pitches she can’t do much with,” Wink said. “Her softball IQ is through the roof, in understanding situations and where our fielders should be. She’s played so much softball that she just gets it.”
Fitzgerald comes to her softball greatness partly through genetics; her aunt, Courtney Fitzgerald, was the winningest pitcher in school history at St. John’s University when she starred there in the early 2000s, while Fitzgerald’s older sister, 22-year-old Tierney, played at Division I St. Bonaventure before transferring to Adelphi.
Mackenzie Fitzgerald began playing softball at age 8 and joined Team Long Island travel ball shortly after that.
“I just love every aspect of softball,” she said. “It has its ups and downs and can be very frustrating, but once I saw that I could be good at it I really dedicated myself to playing as much as I could.”
All that play has resulted in some injury issues over her career, with a torn rotator cuff and torn labrum in her right shoulder two years ago, and a torn meniscus late last season in a game with Glen Cove costing her the rest of her junior year.
“It’s horrible to just sit there and watch your team and not be able to do anything,” Fitzgerald said. “Your team is struggling, and you feel useless. It was just brutal.”
But fully healthy now, Fitzgerald is thriving. She chose Hofstra over other schools because she said she loved the coaching staff and the school and hopes to study health sciences at the school located just a few long home runs from her current home field. Her goal is to become an ultrasound technician after taking a course in it at Mineola this year.
Before becoming a member of the Hofstra Pride, Fitzgerald hopes to lead Mineola on a playoff run, with her kid sister by her side.
“She’s just the best teammate and sister,” said Cassidy Fitzgerald, who gave a speech honoring her sister at Mineola’s recent “Senior Day” game. “She helps people when they’re down because she has such a positive attitude.
“It’s been so great being with her.”