In her first full season in varsity softball, Ursuline's Makayla Shore has taken a page out of Mike Kernan's book of toughness.
Kernan, a defensive back at Chaney High School in the 1980's and the current Irish softball coach, admits he developed his coaching style from his football playing days.
"You had to put your pads on each time knowing that you were going to get run over," Kernan said. "You have to take a hit each time and go back out there."
Shore never got bulldozed by a 225-pound fullback, but she ran into her fair share of powerhouses.
Of Ursuline's 29 games in 2013, 19 were played against programs in Divisions I and II. The Irish earned wins over Howland, Notre Dame Cathedral Latin and Warren G. Harding. During a three-day trip to Cincinnati in late April, they downed Milford and ended the Ursuline Lions' 11-game winning streak. The Irish took their lumps against a McCauley team that boasted a pitcher with a 0.5 earned run average.
"I've talked to the girls about being tough, getting through rough situations and always, no matter what, having your teammates back," Kernan said. "That's our rock; what we take pride in."
On April 23, Shore gave up 10 runs to Stow-Munroe Falls.
"We needed to put her in those situations against a tough schedule," Kernan said. "We threw her into the water and see if she was either going to sink or swim. If you're a real athlete and want to get to to a certain level, you want to face these challenges to make you better.
"Makayla is definitely that kind of athlete. She has that competitive drive and has grown throughout the year."
Shore, a sophomore, is originally from Pennsylvania, but spends a lot of her summers in North Carolina playing for one of the highest ranked softball leagues in the country.
"That's a pretty big curveball for me, no pun intended," Kernan said, laughing. "I'm proud of her, though. She always seeks extra opportunities because she is committed to softball. She has a great and supportive family, too."
After sitting out her freshman year as McKenzie Stimpert, Ursuline's current starting third baseman, took to the mound, Shore has racked up 199 strikeouts, tallied a 1.58 ERA and sports a 18-9 pitching record.
"She's kind of got beat up this year, but we felt her potential was there," Kernan said. "It's good that she was tested like this early because we have her for the next two years."
The 15-year old continues a long lineage of Irish pitchers who have dominated in Kernan's 12 years with the program. Maureen Cearfoss, Ashley Koval and Casey Lower each led them to a district title. Now, Shore wants to keeping going for a regional and state title.
"We're excited," she said. "We need take it one game at a time, but really we try to put it in the Lord's hands and go out and get it from there."
Shore sat out a year because of Ohio High School Athletic Association transfer rules, though she enrolled early before her freshman year. She considered herself a member of the Irish and watched every one of their games in 2012.
"It was rough just having to watch and not play," Shore said. "But I was proud of the way they played and it was good to make friends with the girls in that way, too."
Added Kernan, "She really is almost like a freshman for us. She needed to see that game action, adapt and learn our system, grow and build pitches and be coachable. Lucky for us, Makayla has the mindset and athleticism to be strong with all of those factors."
At the plate, Shore has a .448 batting average. She had a double in Ursuline's 2-1, nine inning win over South Range in a Division III district final. Raiders pitcher Carly DeRose had only surrendered 19 hits on the season and the Irish collected six of those in the game.
On May 15, Ursuline beat its regional final opponent, LaBrae, 7-5, behind nine hits.
"We went through a very tough schedule to watch the kids grow, mature and respond," Kernan said. "Come tournament time, this is exactly where we want to be."