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Seniors have lifted Cubs’ program

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Olivia Paszek hears the voice coming from the vicinity of first base every game she pitches.

Her teammate, best friend, mirror image and younger sibling by a whole five minutes is doing her best to motivate. The message shaped by whatever situation the Franklin Community High School softball team is in at the time.

“Snap your wrist.”

“C’mon ... confidence.”

“Shake it off.”

Suffice it to say, Grace Paszek is the chattier of the Paszek twins.

She, Olivia and second baseman Mackenzie Writt are seniors rounding third when it comes to their high school softball careers.

All three boast batting averages .510 or better this season. All three are going to play collegiately — Writt at Hanover College and the Paszeks for Butch Zike at Franklin College. All three are good students with grade-point averages hovering in the 3.5 to 3.8 range.

Very simply, a trio that wins on and off the field.

“They started the first game of their freshman season (in 2011), and none of them has missed a practice or a game since. I’m talking the voluntary stuff, too,” said Grizzly Cubs coach Joe Paszek, the twins’ father.

Writt’s oven-like .560 average from the cleanup spot in the batting order includes five doubles, 15 runs, 17 RBIs and a team-best two home runs. Her on-base percentage is .558.

“Mackenzie is a tremendous defensive player but a great hitter, too,” Joe Paszek said. “She leads by example and has kind of an edge to her that doesn’t come off the wrong way. People see her toughness and follow that.”

Writt exuded this same air even as a freshman. Surrounded primarily by older, more-seasoned teammates, she blended immediately.

“I wasn’t intimidated, not from a softball standpoint,” said Writt, who has played some form of softball since she was 5. “These last four years have gone by fast. We’ve had some bumps, but it’s been enjoyable for the most part.”

Having your father as coach proved both a blessing and curse for the Paszeks.

“My freshman year a lot of people were saying I would make the team only because my dad is the coach,” said Grace, Franklin’s leader in runs produced with 20. “He yells at me and Olivia more, but he tells us it’s because he loves us more.”

Joe has coached his daughters since T-ball. Placing three ultra-competitive family members on the same softball diamond has made for some interesting scenarios whether it’s a practice or game.

The good times have been many with the occasional silent treatment on the drive home thrown in just to keep things interesting. Sometimes it’s Joe keeping to himself. Other times it’s the girls silent-treating their old man or even one another.

“I think these four years have been a lot of fun,” said Olivia, the Cubs’ No. 1 pitcher, who this season has a 9-3 record, 1.30 earned run average and 66 strikeouts in her 64 2/3 innings of work.

“I love playing for my dad. Everyone is like, ‘What are you going to do in college when he’s not your coach?’ I think playing for him has made me mentally tougher.”

Franklin is scheduled to honor its senior softball players before the May 23 home game against Seymour. It’s a day Joe Paszek both looks forward to and wants to avoid.

Not only is his scrappy second baseman suiting up for her final home appearance, so, too, are the twins delivered five weeks premature by his wife, Amy. The ones Joe said cried the first two years of their young lives but have been such an unbelievable blessing overall.

“I’m probably not looking forward to that day. It’s going to be kind of bittersweet,” Joe said. “All three of these girls have started every game since their freshman season and are outstanding role models for our youth.”

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