Freshman designated player Jackie Branco steps up to the plate with two outs and the game tying run 60 feet away. With a quick flick of her wrists, she crushes a sinking pitch over the left center-field fence.
Power has come from many players for the softball team this season, with every starter going deep at some point this season.
Branco and senior pitcher and outfielder Britt Lillie are first and second on the team, respectively, in the power categories of slugging percentage and on base percentage. They share the lead in home runs for the Blue and Gold, having hit four apiece.
Lillie said she and Branco are similarly built players that have adjusted their swings to fit their strengths.
“We both have the same body type and can use our upper body strength to get under the lower pitches,” Lillie said.
Branco said Lillie has taught her to develop a good eye in the batter’s box, and she has to use her quick hands when she makes contact to become a complete power hitter.
“When I see a ball in the middle of the strike zone, it’s about bat speed and being able to turn on the pitch quick enough so I’m not just fouling off pitch after pitch,” Branco said.
The Bombers have gone deep at least once in five of their last seven games, and have 18 home runs on the season to their opponents’ nine. They are second place in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Northeast Region rankings with a record of 21–9 overall, sitting behind only SUNY-Cortland.
Sophomore infielder Molly O’Donnell, who led the team with seven home runs last season, said the long ball is the main reason behind the Bombers’ success this season compared to last.
“Home runs mean guaranteed runs,” she said. “When we hit one over the fence the excitement gives all of us a huge energy boost.”
O’Donnell hit a solo shot in the second game of a doubleheader April 20 at Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute, which began a six-run inning for the Bombers.
Senior first baseman Courtney Noster also went deep for the first time in Friday’s 10–0 shutout at Utica College.
Head Coach Deb Pallozzi said though home runs could give the team runs in large chunks, the Blue and Gold can’t solely rely on them for scoring.
“We can’t count on one of our bats going deep every game,” she said. “If we want [home runs] to have a big impact on the game, we still need to get runners on base so we can turn all of our hits into ones that lower our opponents’ confidence.”
Lillie said the South Hill squad will not be completely satisfied with its play until it wins the Empire 8 conference tournament.
“We know we’re the best team now, but any team can go on a hot or cold streak at any time and shift the standings,” she said.