For players competing in Thursday’s North-South Softball Classic at Buffalo, it will be a swan song in terms of wearing their respective school colors.
But for one, it will be hello and goodbye all at the same time.
Nitro’s Liv McClain will suit up in Wildcats garb for the Region 4 squad despite never wearing the uniform prior. It’s certainly a unique situation in the weirdest of years.
McClain moved to Las Vegas from Cross Lanes before her ninth-grade season in hopes of garnering college attention.
“When I was in the eighth grade, my dad asked me where I wanted to go to [college],” McClain explained. “I had two older cousins that both played football at USC and I wanted to go to California and play near them. We had family in Vegas so my dad took me there.”
What she found in Nevada was a whole new world and one that will certainly prepare her for life as a college athlete.
“When I got there, some of our classrooms were as big as my old middle school,” McClain said. “That first day I think I got lost 17 times. I asked someone how many kids went to school there and they told me almost 5,000.
“But I had a lot of girls to look up to. I saw a girl that now plays at Kentucky, one that now plays at Michigan, one that is now at UC Davis, just insane players. I still talk to these girls all the time.”
However, her college journey won’t take her to California, but to the opposite side of the country as she will play at Niagara next season. That college decision freed her up a bit and, missing her mother and sister, McClain convinced her father to move back before the school year. The shortstop/catcher was set up to join a young, talented Wildcats team that had made the state tournament for the first time last year.
That obviously never came to fruition as the coronavirus wiped out the entire spring sports slate. Still, McClain went through workouts and practices with Nitro and, as the team’s only senior and a Division I commitment, tried to lead as much as possible.
“Coach [Mike] Taylor sat me down and said, ‘These girls have a chance at something special, we just need a little push and you can be that push,’ ” McClain said. “He told me, ‘You’re going to have to step up and be a leader and those girls really showed me that if you’re going to do this, we’re going to do this. If you’re hitting, we’re hitting.’
“When I first came back, I didn’t think I’d make a lot of close bonds because I was leaving so soon. I was only going to be here for eight months and then I’m leaving. But once softball season came around, I got really close with a lot of those girls. I wish we’d have gotten a shot this year. Those girls had a different push.”
McClain has emerged from a strong athletic gene pool. Her younger sister Konnor is a member of the United States women’s national gymnastics team and a future Olympic hopeful.
It’s also been a heck of a journey for McClain, who will join area softball stalwarts for two final games as part of Thursday’s event. While the rest of the players will look to put a cap on established careers, McClain will attempt to say goodbye with a big introduction.
In attempting to prove what she could have done had the season been held, she may be the most motivated player to be found on any of the four rosters.
“All I can say is that I’m super excited,” McClain said. “I cannot wait for this North-South game.”