Batting coach Tripp MacKay’s journey to the Longhorns

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Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

Assistant coach Tripp MacKay tosses ball after ball in the batting cages. It’s something he does for hours every day.

“A little to the inside,” freshman catcher Taylor Ellsworth said one afternoon. 

Ellsworth rocked on her back right hip, and her front foot tilted back with it. As the ball approached, her body shifted and her foot planted as she leaned into the ball, knocking it into the net in front of MacKay. Her follow-through swing rounded over her back before she reset on her back hip. 

Every swing had the same motion at varied speeds. MacKay preaches consistency. It’s something that has worked for Ellsworth, who hones the top batting average on the team at .500. 

“It’s those little bitty things that make a swing difference,” MacKay said. “Sometimes you’re not just trying to strip them down and rebuild them, you’re just kind of adding to the base they already have. Couple things that we harp on are balance, keeping our head still when we swing, getting them to really incorporate their legs in their swing.” 

MacKay has origins in baseball, playing at Florida and Oklahoma State, dabbling in the minor leagues for four years before stepping into coaching. His career in softball started at Oklahoma, where he was the assistant coach from 2007–2015.

MacKay helped lead the Sooners to eight postseason appearances and four Women’s College World Series berths. This weekend, the Longhorns will face the fellow fruits of his labor.

“To me, it’s another game on the schedule,” MacKay said. “Just trying to keep everything the same because sometimes the hype can get over processed and the girls go out and they press and they try to do too much.” 

Before his job at Texas, MacKay served as director of training and player development and co-head coach on a new National Professional Fastpitch softball team with long-time friend of the Oklahoma program, Connie May.

May built the team — the Scrap Yard Dawgs — as the first professional team in the Houston area since 2007.

“It’s a different level,” MacKay said. “Obviously the game is faster, better pitching, better hitting, better everything. It was fun because this team actually let us really be coaches and I really got to work with the players. It was a good experience.” 

MacKay worked for one year at the Scrap Yard before head coach Connie Clark called him with the job at Texas.

“He is extremely detailed in his style,” May said. “He has worked tirelessly to create a brand for himself.  He knows every facet of his brand and works very hard to communicate it to every athlete on an individual level.”

Many Longhorns have seen offensive improvement but have struggled to get the timely hits they need to close out games. 

“Timely hits is just them not trying to do too much at that point,” MacKay said. “Lot of times as a hitter, when I see them swing at bad pitches, it’s usually just them trying to do too much.”  

Learning a new hitting philosophy in the midst of a tough schedule has been hard for the Longhorns, but it is taking a positive direction. 

“Our mentality has changed a lot,” senior first baseman Kelli Hanzel said. “There’s more confidence at the plate. Just having a plan and seeing a lot of success at
the plate.”

As MacKay walks out of the batting cages, he jogs over to the team huddle in his gray t-shirt with an orange Longhorn across his chest and orange shorts. Although the Red River Rivalry brews at McCombs Field this weekend, MacKay will only be focused on success of his Longhorn team.

“Seeing their eyes light up or that smile, like, ‘I know I’ve been working on this’ and that finally shows up,” MacKay said. “It’s that one little piece, maybe a ground ball or a swing that gives them that extra little edge. I think that’s the biggest gratification a coach can have.”