After a lengthy recruiting process that saw her temporarily committed to two other Big Ten universities, Mount Gilead softball standout McKenzie Bump chose to continue her academic and athletic careers at The Ohio State University.
Bump initially had signed with Indiana, having considered it a dream to be able to play for a major college.
“When I was little, I’d heard I was too small for Division I, so when I got an offer, I went there and that was a beautiful campus,” she said.
However, while in high school, the Hoosiers made a coaching change and she found the new regime didn’t necessarily share the previous one’s desire to have her become part of the program. Upon reopening her recruiting, she still wanted to play for a large school and was able to find one in Penn State.
“I reopened my recruiting process, which was a good idea on my part,” she said. “I got to see different campuses, which was so cool. When I went there (Penn State), it was a beautiful campus. They had so many opportunities for me. Ever since I was little, I wanted to go to a bigger school.”
However, as time passed, she found out that Ohio State was interested in her and she decided to reach out to them, eventually changing her commitment from Penn State to the Buckeyes.
“The big difference was the distance,” she said. “My family and I are close and I have a little sister and she’s my best friend. I was like, ‘You know what? I always wanted to go to Ohio State, so let’s see what they say.’”
Adding to the appeal of Ohio State was that, with Penn State, she was the only out-of-state commitment. With Ohio State, she’s played travel ball with some of her future teammates, causing her to feel a bit more at home with the Buckeyes.
Bump, who will major in business management and minor in entrepreneurship, is excited about going from a small-town high school to a huge college campus.
“To go from a small school to one of the biggest is getting out of my comfort zone,” she said, citing the diversity on Ohio State’s campus as a big factor in her interest. “That’s what I’m excited about.”
Softball has been something that Bump has been associated with for most of her life. Her father, Jeff, played in a slow-pitch league when she was born, so she was watching him compete at a very young age.
When she was younger, she tended to play with and against older girls and she joined the Ohio Lady Lasers when 10. Soon afterwards, she decided to see how far her talents could take her.
“When I was 12, I realized I wanted to go big and not go small,” she said.
To do so, she’s played a lot of games per year, with only a small percentage of those coming during the high school season.
On top of the 20-23 games played per year with the Indians, she also estimates that she plays an average of 100 travel ball games during the summer, as well as 50 more in fall. While with Mount Gilead, she was able to earn many accolades and was coming off back-to-back years where she had batting averages of .794 and .750.
“My dad always told me that numbers don’t lie,” she said. “Batting average was a very big deal in my family.”
As a result, she’ll have the opportunity to play for a major college, where she’s hoping to quickly make contributions.
“They’re hoping I’ll be in one of the top three spots in the line-up,” she said. “I’ve never been a big power-hitter, but more of a table-setter. For defense, we have eight girls coming in and three or four of us play in the middle infield. They have me as a utility player.”
She added that the team has an established veteran at shortstop, so her goal is to see action at second base while learning from her. Bump does regret not being able to play her senior season, as the 2020 spring sports season was wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic.
“For the first month, I probably cried every single day,” she said. “This year, I was hoping to put it all together. I could have had one of the top five batting averages in the country ever. The hard part is not being able to confirm I’d get it.”
While she is starting to be able to play summer tournaments, she noted that, due to some tournaments being cancelled, she’ll won’t be playing as often as usual. While she’s been able to practice by herself and has worked with her future Ohio State teammates, she did say that she feels she’s a bit behind where she’d usually be.
“I feel a little behind with live pitching,” she said. “Just seeing a pitcher in front and working on my footwork and timing.”
Another thing she’ll miss about Mount Gilead was simply being able to help her teammates in the sport.
“The coolest thing for me was I got to help other people,” she said. “My teammates respected me and the parents were real nice. Some of those girls did want to go on to play at the next level and it felt good to help them because so many have helped me.”