McDonald riding hard-working mentality to success with Rams

Strasburg's Cortney McDonald fields a ground ball during a recent practice. McDonald will help lead the Lady Rams in softball in their upcoming season. Rich Cooley/Daily

STRASBURG – Strasburg High School senior Cortney McDonald lives by a certain philosophy on the softball field.

She often tells herself not to try to be the best player on the diamond, instead opting to focus her effort on becoming the best that she can possibly be. If she can do that, she says, she’s already won, she can take pride in knowing she’s put herself in the best possible position to help her teammates.

That philosophy, one she said she’s created on her own, is central to the blue collar mentality that McDonald has displayed during her four-year career as a member of Strasburg’s varsity softball team.

“I realized that the more hard-working girls got more opportunities on the team and I really looked up to them,” McDonald said after the Rams’ practice Tuesday evening of the lessons she’s gleaned from her first three seasons as a varsity starter. “And probably leadership. I wanted to become a leader on and off the field, and in school and stuff.”

McDonald’s drive to maximize her effort in everything she does draws praise from Strasburg softball coach Suzanne Mathias. When most players are using the weekend to rest up during the high school season, McDonald is at home putting in some solo work, either hitting off a tee or throwing softballs into the air and trying to track them down. She is, in her own words, practicing outside of practice.

And she’s seen the benefits.

At the plate McDonald has proven to be one of Strasburg’s most consistent hitters since she joined the varsity team as a freshman in 2014. In the field she’s as versatile as they come, a human Swiss Army knife capable of playing a variety of roles.

McDonald played center field during her first two seasons with the Rams before moving to catcher as a junior last season, a position she played in Little League and at the junior varsity level. Though she hasn’t been required to do so for the Rams, McDonald is comfortable playing all nine positions on the field.

“She’s one of those, you wish you had 10 of her because she really can play any position and play it well,” Mathias said.

“She’s definitely gonna be one I’m gonna miss just because it’s hard to replace a kid like that. She’s a team player all the way around. … If she cares that you’re moving her around she doesn’t show it, where a lot of the other girls, they can’t handle that and they get mad because you move them here, you move them there. She’s just happy to be in the lineup.”

McDonald’s position for the upcoming 2017 season has yet to be solidified – she’s been working at catcher this preseason, would welcome a switch back to the outfield and has even been taking some practice reps at shortstop – but there’s little doubt where she will bat in the Rams’ lineup this season.

Given McDonald’s ability to consistently put the ball in play and drive in runs – she combined to hit .353 with 37 RBIs over the last two seasons – Mathias said the senior will retain her spot in the heart of the order and will bat third or fourth for the Rams this spring.

As a junior in 2016, McDonald, who said she battled a six-game slump to end the season, batted .339 with three home runs and 24 RBIs, the latter of which tied for second in the area.

“Last year was probably her best season as far as power-wise,” Mathias said. “She’s always been consistent. She’s not one that would strike out a lot but she would get on and she’s fast. She knows the game. She’s one of those that you don’t have to say OK, try to steal on this or react to this, advance bases. She just does it and it’s nice to have, that you don’t have to try to coach all that.”

Perhaps just as important as her on-field production, McDonald figures to take another step into a leadership role as a senior this spring after serving as a team captain last season. Her role as a senior will be new territory.

“I’ve always played up on teams. I’ve never really actually played with my age group, so I’ve always been the baby and I’ve always looked up to people,” McDonald said. “Now that I’m a senior, it’s kind of different. But last year being a captain and having to lead the team helped with that.”

McDonald will be one of two seniors tasked with leading a young Rams squad that returns five starters from last season’s 7-14 team, Mathias said. That core includes senior Katie Smoot, junior Hannah Alexander and sophomores Madison Foltz and Emily Smoot, according to Mathias.

The head coach added that Katie Smoot and Foltz will handle most of the pitching this season after the graduation of Carey Scott.

As for McDonald, Mathias said she expects the senior to simply “continue to do what she’s done.”

“She’s the quiet leader,” Mathias said.

“She just leads by example, you know, and respecting other players. Whether she likes them or not she’s gonna respect them and not bash. She’s gonna just go do her job and not worry about everybody else. She’s a good kid. I hate to her see her time come to a close.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com