BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
WEST LAFAYETTE — Caston senior pitcher-second baseman Kinzie Mollenkopf won the mental attitude award for Class 1A softball in an on-field, postgame ceremony at Purdue University’s Bittinger Stadium following the Lady Comets’ 6-0 loss to Tecumseh Saturday.
Mollenkopf is the first Caston athlete to win an IHSAA mental attitude award.
Mollenkopf praised her teammates for their support.
“It’s just a great honor to have and just knowing that I’m the Class 1A mental attitude winner is just great,” Mollenkopf said. “It’s just great. This whole team has just had my back and just helped me throughout this whole ride. All the credit really does go to them.”
Caston coach Jon Burks praised Mollenkopf’s athletic accomplishments and character.
“It was awesome,” Burks said. “She’s deserving of it. Great student, great athlete, very good in sportsmanship. … How could you not give that to that young lady? Like I said, we’re still a winner.”
Mollenkopf and Bailey Harness are the two seniors on the team. Each said the other is their best friend.
“It’s very close,” Mollenkopf said. “We’ve always been friends since she came to Caston in third grade.”
Mollenkopf then smiled recalling the nature of her friendship with Harness.
“We are together nonstop, always together,” Mollenkopf said. “Sometimes we need to take a break just because we get at each other. It’s a good type of friendship.”
Harness had earlier described Mollenkopf as competitively tough but also “very funny.”
“I’m so proud of her, and I definitely think it’s well deserved,” Harness said after the game.
Mollenkopf’s award might be evidence of a culture change at Caston.
Caston won their first softball sectional when they beat Southwood 4-1 on May 25. They won their first regional in any team sport when they beat Fremont 20-1 in five innings on May 30. They won their first semistate with wins over Kouts and Cowan at the Frankfort semistate on June 3.
“It’s just a lot of girls who want to be on the field and want to play and just be there every step of the way,” Mollenkopf said. “Not one girl didn’t want to be here today. Not one girl didn’t want to be there at sectional, so it’s just great to have that kind of culture at Caston with our community right behind us.”
Mollenkopf also thanked the Caston community for their crowd support. Her softball career is not over. She will play at Huntington University next year. Among her teammates will be 2020 Caston grad Ady Harsh, 2021 Pioneer grad Mackenzie Walker and 2023 Rochester grad Maddi Heinzmann.
“It was crazy,” Mollenkopf said. “I just want to thank all the fans that came to watch us, and I hope we made them proud, and I know that they are proud of us.”
Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance, a corporate partner of the IHSAA, donated a $1,000 scholarship to Caston in Mollenkopf’s name.
“The recipient of this award, who was nominated by her principal and coach, must excel in mental attitude, scholarship, leadership and athletic ability in softball,” the IHSAA said in its criteria for the award.
Tecumseh first baseman Brianna Marx won the mental attitude award for Class 1A volleyball in November. It was unknown if Tecumseh nominated Marx for this award.
It was not the last award Mollenkopf received on the day. After the team returned from Purdue, Burks revealed in a crowded rally at the Comet Crater that Mollenkopf was the unanimous choice among the conference’s coaches for Hoosier North MVP.