Softball: Five of the best freshmen sluggers in DI
Everyone enjoys sitting back and watching a majestic moonshot leave the stadium. Whether it's the game changer, the walk-off or the grand slam, home runs captivate their audience.
Here are a few freshman who hit them better than anyone else.
Jenna Cone, George Washington, catcher
Cone isn’t simply having one of the best freshman seasons for the Colonials. She’s having arguably the best season in the program’s history.
This has been a historic season for GW, seeing their record book rewritten several times. Senior Megan Linn became the all-time hits leader, while junior ace Sarah Costlow is now the all-time wins leader.
She’s leading the team in batting average (.390), home runs (18) and RBI (54). She leads all DI freshman in home runs and has already set single-season record at GW. Cone's 18th home run of the season this past weekend also made her the single-season record holder for RBI.
"I never expected anything like this," Cone said. "I've always worked hard, I listen to what the coaches have to tell me and try to replicate that as much as I can.
"It definitely gets me excited. It shows all the hard work I've put in and all of the great coaching I've gotten over the years."
The person easing Cone's transition from high school softball in California to the circle in the nation's capital is her sister. Jayme Cone is a sophomore pitcher for the Colonials. This season, their childhood dream came true, as Jenna caught for Jayme, both as starters for a DI team.
"It was a surreal moment," Cone said. "We knew it was going to happen. At the time, it was just like every other game we had ever played. After the game was over we just looked at each other. We just started together at the same time in college. We've played together since we were six and 12 years later, we're playing together in college. It was definitley a once-in-a-lifetime moment. Coming to college with her was an awesome decision, I'm so glad I did it."
Now, Cone is amongst the most feared hitters in the Atlantic 10. She is the heart of the new look Colonial lineup, one that has already exceeded it's win total from 2016. But being the power hitter she has become isn't her focus.
"I never have the goal of hitting a home run when I come to bat," Cone said. "Depending on the situation I'll try to place it somewhere rather than I would in another. My goal in every at bat is to hit the ball hard. Sometimes you hit the ball hard and you make an out, and sometimes you get a mis-hit, a little blooper. It's always my goal to get a hit so that the rest of my team can work on scoring runs and get a win."
Cone’s work hasn’t gone unnoticed. She is one of the NFCA’s 25 finalists for Freshman of the Year.
"It was never my goal to be recognized as one of the top freshman, but when I saw it I was really excited," Cone said. "I was really happy to know my hard work showed. A couple of my teammates and coaches texted me, congratulating me. I was just glad to do well for this program."
Kendyl Lindaman, Minnesota, catcher
Lindaman is the next in line of great Gopher freshman. Like Cone, the rookie catcher finds herself a finalist on the NFCA Freshman of the Year list.
Lindaman is having a monster season. She is leading the team in batting average (.409), home runs (15) and is second with 54 RBI. Her play has helped Minnesota maintain a Top 10 ranking this season, coming in at No. 5 this week.
Clearly the favorite for the Big 10 Freshman of the Year, Lindaman has already won four Freshman of the Week honors, including a stretch of three in a row. Now, opposing pitchers are seemingly afraid to throw to her. Lindaman tied a Big 10 record last week by drawing five walks in a game.
Braxton Burnside, Missouri, shortstop
Burnside is making her presence felt as one of the best offensive players in a SEC packed with talent. She’s done it in grand fashion.
The Tigers’ shortstop is batting .320 on the season. She has 10 doubles and 12 home runs, one of just three SEC players to post those kind of numbers (Arkansas senior Nicole Schroeder and Tennessee's junior Meghan Gregg being the others). Her 48 RBI are fourth in the conference.
Burnside put her power on the national map in a March 18th showdown against North Dakota State. She became just the 12th player in DI history to belt two grand slams in one game, establishing a new Missouri single-game record with 10 RBI in the process.
Ryan Jackson, Bethune-Cookman, outfield
Jackson, like everyone who appears on this list, is also one of the finalists competing for Freshman of the Year honors.
One would think the high school track and field star would make her mark atop the order as a speedster. While she has done that (a nearly-perfect 15-for-16 on the base paths), her power is what has garnered her national attention.
Jackson is batting .431 with 8 doubles, 13 home runs and 43 RBI, all bests for the Wildcats. She is the MEAC’s best hitter, not simply leading in nearly every category, but dominating in them. The next closest in batting average is hitting .386, and the next closest in home runs has nine.
One more bomb will establish the new MEAC single season record for Jackson’s incredible debut. Not a bad freshman year at all.
Dejah Mulipola, Alyssa Palomino, AND Jessie Harper, Arizona
Not one, not two, but three Arizona Wildcats adorn the NFCA Freshman of the Year list. All three swing a big bat.
Arizona’s offense has been amongst the best in the nation at any level this season. They are top five in batting average (.347) and hit the most home runs in DI (1.72 per game). Their freshman trio are a big part of that.
Catcher Dejah Mulipola has been double-tasked with blasting home runs and catching for a pitching staff that ranks near the top of DI with a 1.17 ERA. She has hit .357 with 11 doubles and 11 home runs, driving in 46.
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Infielder Jessie Harper is batting .331 with 10 doubles, 16 home runs and 39 RBI. Outfielder Alyssa Palomino is hitting .322 with 11 doubles, 15 home runs and 52 RBI.
Senior third baseman Katiyana Mauga — who has 21 home runs of her own this year — will leave Arizona as their all-time home run leader. She may be watching the three players who will break her mark.