LAGRANGE — They are eye-popping numbers to stay the least.
A .565 batting average, .662 on base percentage, .919 on base percentage.
Those numbers belong to Keystone junior Alisha Silva. She hits seventh.
The eighth hitter and ninth hitters, juniors Alyson Broschk and Mallory Nagy, are both hitting .433 and .439 respectively.
Coaches love to talk about having a successful lineup one through nine but most wouldn’t dare to even dream of the Keystone Wildcats lineup.
Pitching and defense are important, and the Wildcats (25-1) can do both well. However the top-ranked D-II team in the state of Ohio is locked and loaded at the plate.
As a team, Keystone is hitting .447 with an on base percentage of .566 and slugging percentage of .736.
With three games left in the regular season plus the playoffs, Keystone has already piled up 127 extra bases hits including 29 home runs (hit by eight different players), 18 triples and 80 doubles. Every starter has a batting average over .400.
The scariest part maybe that there is only one senior in the lineup, No. 2 hitter Alexis Sanislow.
The amount of pressure the lineup puts on opposing pitchers and defenses is incredible. The first eight hitters all have power and have hit home runs this season but the lineup is also set up to play small ball if needed.
Leadoff hitter Erin Pond, a junior (.595 batting average, .644 on base percentage, 1.114 slugging percentage) was a First Team All-Ohio selection last season. As the leadoff hitter, Pond can set the table but late in the game she is finisher as well with 34 RBI in the leadoff spot.
“She is a great two-strike hitter,” Keystone coach Jim Piazza said. “She has only struck out six times in 72 at-bats.”
Sanislow (.423, .556, .620) can hit for power but is also a great bunter who can move up Pond if needed. Up third is Pitcher/First baseman Kenzie Conrad (.440, .556, .907), a second team All-Ohio selection, who leads the team with nine home runs.
“We set up the offense to attack early and then built the next three spots for the next situation and then again for the last three,” Piazza said.
Junior Bee Shaw (.406, .557, .641) who alternates with Conrad between first and pitching restarts the offense. Shaw has a great eye at the plate leading the team in walks.
“We have put Bee in a tough position hitting cleanup,” Piazza said. “She has been able to do a lot of nice things and come up big in key spots.”
The fifth and sixth spots are filled by junior Bri Buckley (.493, .580, .746) and sophomore Britt Bowers (..458, .629, .712). Both can catch and play third base and have been clutch this season at the plate.
“Bri has done a great job this season,” Piazza said. “She has been very consistent and adds speed to the lineup. She has power and can bunt as well.
“When our offense has struggled this season, it has been Britt that has woke up the offense with a big hit.”
The bottom third of the lineup is that in name only. Silva has two home runs and five triples. She could hit lead off or third for most teams in the area.
“Alisha has been on fire,” Piazza said. “All of her triples have been balls that hit the fence and were nearly home runs. She leads the team in steals with 15 and has 13 walks.”
Bronschk (.433, .552, .833) provides power (7 doubles, 5 HR) at the end of the lineup that is envy of softball coaches anywhere. Nagy (.4.439, .483, .544) is the only Wildcat without a home run this season but her bunting has been an effective weapon for Keystone.
“Mallory can bunt for a hit as well as sacrifice,” Piazza said. “She is our second leadoff hitter as she gets on so Erin can drive her home.”
It is a quick strike offense. Against Walsh Jesuit at the Prebis tournament, the game was over almost as soon as it started. The Warriors actually retired Pond to start the game but then the merry-go-around started. By the time it stopped every member of the starting lineup had scored a run as the offense put up a 10-spot before recording another out.
Columbia head coach Ken Richardson said the lineup is similar to Hudson’s impressive 2007 state championship team. Richardson saw the Keystone lineup feed off in each other when the Wildcats gave his team one of only two losses this season. Columbia led 1-0 before the Wildcats scored 11 runs with two outs in the third inning of the 11-1 win
“It was the first time since I have been at Columbia we have been mercy ruled and they scored all of those runs in one inning,” Richardson said. “We knew they were putting up numbers, but we thought we would get out of the inning. Hitting is contagious and they epitomized that.”
Black River sophomore Dagmar Smith has been dominant this season but the Wildcats beat her twice including scoring 13 runs in the first contest after Smith had allowed none in her first six starts, and then beat her again 3-0.
The pitching mound distnace change of an extra three feet has helped all hitters this season but Piazza also credits the off-season work ethic of his team and their commitment to each other for the impressive numbers.
“They worked extremely hard in the off season,” Piazza said. “We emphasize waiting for the right pitch. They have been really patient at the plate. They have been great at making adjustments. When one doesn’t get a hit, they communicate with the next batter about what was thrown. The second or third time through the lineup against some good teams we have made great adjustments.”
The players credit new drills for the improvement at the plate.
“Coach had us do new drills to strengthen our wrists and to help our form,” Shaw said. “It has helped a tremendous amount. We still do it at practice and before games. It has really built our muscles.”
The players have tremendous confidence in each other. The team knows they are never out of an inning until the third out.
“We have scored so many runs with two outs,” Shaw said. “If one person gets a hit, the next person does too. It is contagious.”
The team chemistry has played a role in that.
“We are like a family,” Shaw said. “One through nine and even the girls on the bench are so close with each other. We feed off each.”
“We pick each other up,” Silva said. “It is good to know your teammates always have your back.”
Last Updated: 5/12/2011 11:38:58 PM EST