First round full of homers
Every game on Thursday featured at least one home run
SALEM, Va. -- Three innings into Thursday’s first round of the 2013 NCAA Division II Softball Championship, Central Oklahoma’s Kacie Edwards hit the tournament’s first home run – a two-run shot to left-center. Many more would join in on the parade of long balls at the Moyer Sports Complex as the day went on.
By the bottom of the third, the total was two. After Humboldt State downed Texas Woman’s 4-2 on Friday afternoon, in a game that was postponed overnight due to rain, a total of seven homers were launched, and every game had at least one.
Edwards was glad to lead the way.
“It’s relieving and exciting,” Edwards said. “You’re waiting for a chance, and it had been a while since I’ve hit a home run, so it was nice to get one.”
For Edwards, that homer was No. 19, which ranks her among the top 20 in the nation. But she has plenty of company in this tournament. Six others playing in the tournament are in the top 20, led by Humboldt State’s Chrissy Stalf, who hit her school-record 28th home run in the Jacks win against TWU. She was facing an opponent in the Pioneers, who had two players – Katie Hines and Jordan Readicker – who also placed in the top-five nationally in the category.
The Pioneers had a couple of fly balls come close, but they didn’t leave the yard this time. It may have been the biggest reason they were heading into the losers’ bracket, while Humboldt State stayed on the winners’ side.
Edwards, a senior, said teams that specialize in winning with home runs have become more and more common.
“In the past two years, I’ve seen more home runs from us and from other teams than I have in the past,” Edwards said. “I don’t know what the change is, but I’ve always felt like Division II softball is hitter-dominated.”
By this point in the season, teams such as Humboldt State expect to see the ball going over the fence regularly.
“We did what we do – we hit home runs,” Stalf said. “To be able to hit my 28th against a team that is also a good home-run hitting team feels good.”
And while Stalf is at the top of her team’s list of home-run hitters, she is hardly alone in contributing to this stat for the Jacks. Five other teammates have hit at least 10 homers in 2013. Stalf’s shot on Friday – the 113th of the season for Humboldt State, was the NCAA-record 113th of the season.
Frank Cheek, the Jacks’ veteran coach, said he has never had anything against fielding a team that is built to outscore opponents. It’s just that it’s not usually the kind of team he leads.
“You put square pegs in square holes and round ones in round,” said Cheek, who is in his 25th season was the Jacks’ coach “This is the first year I’ve ever played [this kind] of game. Generally, we play more like [conference rival UC San Diego] -- bunt runners over after a base hit, and play for one run.
“But why bunt them over when we can trot them around? … We have great bunters this year. But we also have great hitters this year. So why waste an out?”