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Gary Marshall, Blackfoot Media Group

Jaylin Kenney stepped into the right side of the batter's box in a recent doubleheader at the University of Great Falls, her 11th plate appearance against the Argos in a 48-hour stretch.

The Carroll freshman then sent ace Keeley Van Blaricom's first pitch over the right-center field fence, an atypical at-bat for the slap hitter.

Not even a day later, the Saints catcher was crushing a ball five times that distance and from the left side of the box -- a tee box.

As soon as Carroll returned to Helena the night of that March 29 twin bill, Kenney loaded her golf clubs into her car and made the three-and-a-half hour jaunt to meet her team at the MSU Billings Yellowjacket Invitational where she'd later tally a two-round score of 175.

Juggling a pair of same-season sports with school and a semblance of a social life is arduous enough. For Kenney, a double major in business administration and psychology, that load is magnified.

"It takes a special person to do it," Carroll softball coach Aaron Jackson said. "But it suits her well. She likes to stay busy and could probably teach a class in time management."

Five hours in classrooms. Three hours of softball practice. Two hours of hitting balls at the links, depending how much daylight is left from the former. Each pursuit has increased in difficulty since her days at Polson High School, but the balance is similar.

It was a balance that helped Kenney earn a combined five Class A championships at Polson, whose softball team won three straight titles during her tenure, along with a pair of team golf titles. Individually, she placed second and third.

"It's worked out well," said Kenney, who bats left and golfs right. "They're just so different. Softball is a team sport and golf is so individual, so you compete as a team and practice by yourself."

There was a point in Kenney's senior year, however, when she considered pursuing only softball at the University of Montana, which also boasts a first-year program. When that plan fizzled, she signed her letter of intent to play for Carroll' golf team two months before also committing to play for Saints softball.

"I could have probably walked on (at Montana), but I liked Carroll better," she said. "I came for the school academic programs first. The opportunity to play both sports here was just a bonus."

The soft-spoken Kenney, who noted that most of her athletic scholarship aid comes from softball, has continually been asked about the the misnomer of golf swing hindering her swing at the plate. If anything, it's boosted her strength on the course.

"(Softball) gave me some power in golf," she said. "I have more power in my follow through."

Jackson noted that the contrasting swinging patterns can't impact either.

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"She's really a disciplined hitter, so she wouldn't swing at the low pitched anyway." Jackson said. "There's two different muscle memory patterns there."

Kenney, Jackson and golf coach Bennett MacIntyre are cognizant that there could be a time in Kenney's career when there will be a scheduling conflict between the two sports. The Frontier Conference golf and softball championships are typically around the same time

Carroll was recently knocked out of contention for a berth in the regional softball tournament, so it won't be a problem this spring.

But if it was?

"I'd have to sit down and talk to each of the coaches." said Kenney, who is batting .292 and is No. 4 on the golf team. "And we'd have to figure out which team I mean the most to."

Carroll (8-22) travels to Walla Walla, Washington, this weekend for a pair of doubleheaders with Walla Walla University. The Saints' golf team is in action again April 13 at Westminster Invitational in Salt Lake City.

Ryan Collingwood is on Twitter @RwCollingwood and can be reached at ryan.collingwood@helenair.com 

 

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