One of the things that attracted Eastern New Mexico University softball coach Kira Zeiter to Mikenzey Patterson was her speed. As a freshman, to begin the year, Zeiter used Patterson as a pinch-runner. Patterson would run for ENMU’s first baseman and catcher.
Patterson’s speed and arm made it necessary for Zeiter to start her. Zeiter did it in small steps so she would not overwhelm Patterson. Patterson made her first start on defense in the Lubbock tournament and would end up being moved into the starting lineup and batting .300 on the season. Her first hit of the season was a slap hit between first and second base against Texas Permian Basin. Patterson’s hit would help give the ‘Hounds a 14-9 victory.
Patterson was impressive when she had the chance to play, giving the team a spark that coach Zeiter wanted. Patterson would find a spot in the outfield, alternating between rightfield and centerfield to take advantage of her speed. Patterson’s season was cut short because of the coronavirus. Eastern finished with a winning season, going 11-8.
“Games are crazy intense,” Patterson said. “It is nonstop and energetic, cheering from the time we step off the bus to the time we get back on. That could be 14 innings, we encourage each other on the bus and off the bus.”
Patterson felt like one of the highlights of her season was getting a hit and win against arch-rival West Texas A&M. The hit was important because it helped ENMU break a 35-game losing streak to them. Patterson’s hit started a rally and she would end up scoring a run in the last inning as her teammates would score another run to win 4-3.
She also had two RBIs on the season and stole two bases. It took Patterson a little time to pick up the angles of pitches and the spin of the ball. As a hitter, she feels like the game is a lot faster than in high school and considers playing travel ball a big help to her.
“Mikenzey is a student-athlete that is a joy to coach,” ENMU coach Zeiter said. “She has a positive attitude, is a hard worker on the softball field and in the classroom, and always has a smile on her face.”
Patterson has dreamed of playing college softball since her eighth-grade year. She told herself after seeing Roswell upperclassmen playing in high school that she wanted to play at Roswell.
She feels like she was prepared to play at college because of retired Roswell softball coach Art Sandoval. Patterson feels like Sandoval prepared her in the fundamentals of the game, and by coaching her hard, she was ready when she went to ENMU.
“I made sure I was not a soft-skinned person because of Sandoval,” Patterson said. “He made sure that I worked hard, and I believed in myself twice as hard. So, he prepared me so that I was never timid when I got here.”
One of the major differences between college and high school is that softball requires more time. Not just as an individual but the overall team to be successful. Her schedule was that she would have conditioning in the morning, go to class, and have practice from 3 to 6 p.m.
The most difficult part of Patterson’s season was when the Lady Greyhounds were 20 minutes outside of Tyler, Texas, to play a four-game series against UT Tyler. The athletic director called them while they were en route and told the team they could not play for two weeks. The team spent the night in Tyler because it was an eight-hour bus ride.
“I cried for our seniors,” Patterson said. “We just knew what was going to happen. We didn’t want it to happen, but we knew it was going to be ended.”
Patterson feels bad not only about her college season being cut short but also her former teammates at Roswell. Her advice to them would be to look to the next level and work hard. And despite having their senior year taken from them, look to the next four years of playing college softball.
For the players that have had their softball careers ended, Patterson encourages them to look for something that makes them happy and to make new friends. She believes that there will be new opportunities in her future.
“I have met the best people of my life,” Patterson said. “I’m looking forward to next season. Eastern has been the best experience I have had so far. College is just another level. I haven’t had a dull moment with my team or friends yet.”
“Her speed and athleticism,” Zeiter said, “has made a strong impact on our team, and we look forward to her next three years in a Greyhounds jersey!”
Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or email@example.com.