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Phil Anastasia: 2 Kingsway seniors leading softball team

Time and again, Kingsway softball coach Tony Barchuk has seen seniors Jamie Minix and Danielle Rice come through at crucial moments.

Jamie Minix has two sisters on the team - freshman Jesse and junior Jill.
Jamie Minix has two sisters on the team - freshman Jesse and junior Jill.Read more

Time and again, Kingsway softball coach Tony Barchuk has seen seniors Jamie Minix and Danielle Rice come through at crucial moments.

They've done pretty well on the field, too.

"These two, they are just awesome leaders," Barchuk said. "I can't tell you how many times they've taken care of some issue with this team. They take care of all our business: Who's unhappy, who's this, who's that.

"They take care of all the logistics. Who's going to pick up the bats and balls and everything else with practice, with traveling to games. Everything. They do everything."

The best softball seniors are part star players, and part team moms - or at least, team older sisters. That's Minix and Rice, the only seniors on the freshly crowned South Jersey Group 3 champions.

Minix and Rice, a pair of four-year starters, will lead Kingsway for the last time this week, as the Dragons face Central Jersey champion Middletown South in a state semifinal Tuesday at 4 p.m. at Rancocas Valley. A victory would advance Kingsway to Saturday's state championship game.

"It's just awesome to get this far in our senior year," Rice said after Kingsway beat West Deptford, 4-1, in Thursday's sectional title game. "Jamie and me have been together for four years, for us to go out like this, it's amazing. It's just what we hoped for."

Minix and Rice are the Dragons' Butch and Sundance. Minix is the pitcher. Rice is the catcher. Minix bats second. Rice hits third.

Minix is 19-3 on the mound, with an 0.83 ERA and 161 strikeouts in 168 innings. She's also batting .351.

Rice is the team's leader in batting average (.430), home runs (3), and RBIs (29).

"We're always together on the softball field," Minix said. "We've been that way since freshman year. I pitch, she catches. Before, she hit fourth and I hit third. Now, she hits third and I hit second.

"We're like a 1-2 punch."

Crafty but not overpowering on the mound, Minix relies on Rice to call her pitches, play strong defense, and offer unwavering support.

"We've just got such a great relationship," Minix said. "We've been together so long. I just know I can count on her."

Said Rice: "She trusts me. I call the pitches, and she hardly ever shakes me off. I know her as a pitcher. I have a good feeling for what she should throw."

The leadership role has been especially poignant this season for Jamie Minix as her two younger sisters are members of the team. Freshman second baseman Jesse Minix bats leadoff, and junior rightfielder Jill Minix bats fourth.

"I know I'll never get a chance to play on the same team with them the rest of my life," Jamie Minix said. "That's what makes this so special. I'm the big sister, and the team captain. We do fight like sisters sometimes, but it's so great to be playing with them."

Veteran leadership and good chemistry are vital to the success of any team, in any sport, at any level. But the importance of those qualities often seems to grow in girls' high school sports.

As the only seniors on a team loaded with young talent, Jamie Minix and Rice embraced their leadership roles this season. The result was a team that played, according to West Deptford coach Mandy Schramm, with a championship attitude, in spite of its youth.

"I credit those seniors," Schramm said of the duo. "You could just see it, they want it. They're going after it. Every team wants to win, but when you look at those two and that team, you see what it takes."

Barchuk said Jamie Minix and Rice set a tone for the team from the first day of practice.

"They've been here, they've done it," Barchuk said. "The other girls look up to them. They see them work hard. They see them practice hard.

"It rubs off. As coaches, you can only do so much, you can only say so much. It has to come from your team leaders, and we've got two great ones."