Call her Madi or call her Madison; she answers to either.
If you choose to tag Millard South's Madison (or Madi) Unzicker with a nickname, try something other than Slugger.
Millard South coach Steve Kerkman and Dick Jablonski, coach of Unzicker's Nebraska Gold club team, say The World-Herald's 2012 All-Nebraska honorary captain is more than a powerful, patient hitter.
“Defensively, Madison is a good leader and good receiver for the pitchers,” Jablonski said. “They love to throw to her because she blocks the ball well. She calls a good game with the coaches.
“Very rarely does anybody run on her. They just don't because she has a quick release and a very strong arm to the bases.”
Complete commitment to the team concept further clarifies why Unzicker has been such an integral part of Millard South's back-to-back Class A state championship teams. It's the same story for Nebraska Gold and its successful run earlier this month at the Premier Girls Fastpitch national tournament in Huntington Beach, Calif.
“This might sound hokey and clichéd, but I don't think she strives for individual awards,” Kerkman said. “She would sacrifice all of those for team accomplishments. Madison is one of the most selfless players I've ever coached.
“She's so tuned into team goals. She's unparalleled in that category.”
Facing some of the nation's best softball players — usually rosters full of Division I recruits such as herself — every week during the summer, Unzicker said, helped prepare her for what she hopes is a special senior season.
“It helped me mentally the most,” Unzicker said. “You have to keep working and improving because there's always somebody as good as or better than you who will definitely take your spot. That has helped me to work harder and keep at it.”
In 2012, Unzicker set six Millard South offensive records — a .536 batting average, 42 RBIs, 50 runs, 34 walks (many of those intentional), a .664 on-base percentage and a 1.143 slugging percentage.
Jablonski said Unzicker only has gotten better since the Class A title game last October in Hastings.
“Madison looks the part at the plate and takes as big a cut as anybody we face,” Jablonski said. “She hits with a lot of power. Nationally, when they learned who she is, they pitched her carefully.”
Unzicker is happy to share what she's learned. During Millard South's summer camp sessions, Kerkman asked Unzicker to spend a few minutes tutoring the Patriots' younger catchers.
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What was supposed to be a short “this, that and the other thing” chat turned into a nearly 30-minute summit.
“She's good at a lot of things,” Kerkman said. “She's so good at the mental side of catching. That's another testament to her team-first mentality.”
Will opposing coaches try to pitch around her? Kerkman wouldn't mind.
“With our lineup, I hope they do,” Kerkman said. “Vicky Kinney is hitting right behind her, so that's fine with me.”
Kinney, Millard South's junior shortstop, also was first team All-Nebraska in 2012. She hit .488 and struck out only five times in 105 at-bats. The Patriots have a third returning All-Nebraska player, junior pitcher Jordan Johnson.
Millard South's list of potent hitters is more than two-deep, thus the reason there's optimism for a third consecutive state title and fourth in school history.
For Unzicker, just having her name scratched onto the lineup card every game brings a special sense of pride.
“The reason the team atmosphere is so good around here and we play together so well is the confidence we have in each other at every position,” Unzicker said. “It's relaxed because we know we can rely on each other to get the job done if someone isn't having their best day.”
Kerkman and Jablonski are confident Unzicker is just getting started.
“Her home run-to-at-bat ratio is very high, but she has a lot of upside,” Jablonski said. “She will continue to get better as she sees better pitching. Her best days are still ahead of her.”