HARRISONBURG – Kasey Anderson spent much of her freshman year at Chatham High School fuming that her softball coach, Joe Lee, had forced her to completely reinvent her swing. Once a power hitter from the right side, Anderson reluctantly turned into a slap-hitter from the left.
Two stolen-base records later, Anderson isn’t upset anymore.
Now a sophomore at Bridgewater College, Anderson has stolen 38 bases this season, breaking the school single-season record of 36 set by Andrea Eger in 1999. She also holds the all-time career steals record in the Virginia High School League, stealing 99 bases at Chatham to shatter the old mark of 69.
“[Lee] said that if I wanted to play college ball that, with my speed, this is what I needed to do,” said Anderson, who leads Division III in stolen bases. “I disagreed with him a lot until I got the hang of it, and now I’m really thankful he did that.”
Slap-hitting is a strategy speedy left-handed batters sometimes use in softball – they simply try to put the ball in play to the left side, start running while they’re still swinging and beat it out for a single. An especially skilled slap-hitter will also adjust to the left-side infielders’ positions, bunting if they’re back or popping the ball over their heads if they’re in.
With how good of a lefty slap-hitter Anderson is now – she leads No. 19 BC (29-7 overall, 11-3 in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference) with a .405 batting average doing nothing but slap-hitting – it’s hard to imagine how miserable she was as a freshman at Chatham.
When Anderson first started slapping at Chatham, she had a batting average that was “probably 100-something, if that,” she said. Lee, in an attempt to not let his freshman speedster get too frustrated, would let Anderson turn around and bat right-handed once the count reached two strikes.
She got to two strikes so often that Lee remains convinced that Anderson would get to a two-strike count intentionally, just so she could bat right-handed.
But, Anderson said, “I really did try. It’s just that I was so bad, it might have seemed like that.”
“I don’t think people really understood what I was trying to do,” Lee said by phone Sunday. “And then, of course, when she wasn’t successful with it her freshman year, of course I was just the biggest idiot in the world.”
But as Anderson’s career progressed, Lee looked like a seer.
She went on to hit close to .500 her sophomore year, Anderson said. And she was so successful on the base paths that Lee said opposing coaches would videotape her, convinced that she was leaving the original base early.
Lee said coaches tried all kinds of unorthodox strategies against Anderson’s speed. He said one opposing coach simply wouldn’t even throw to second base, because “the only thing that’s going to happen is something bad,” he recalled the coach saying. Other teams would intentionally walk the hitter in front of Anderson so that she couldn’t steal once she was on.
“When she got on, I didn’t have to give her the steal [sign],” said Lee, noting that Anderson was caught stealing just once in high school — when she slipped at first base. “Everybody in the ballpark knew she was going. She was going on the first pitch.
“…Kasey has the speed, but she was also a very, very good base runner. I’ve never seen that speed with that ability to run the bases in one player.”
When she went to Bridgewater, coach Donnie Fulk knew Anderson would be able to steal bases, but he was initially worried whether she would be able to get on base at the college level.
“It was a matter of, you can’t steal first base,” Fulk said. “…She was a right-handed batter and just started slapping a couple of years ago. You never know how they’re going to be able to do that, whether they’re going to be able to do that at the college level or not.”
Fulk figured out pretty quickly that Anderson wouldn’t have that problem.
She hit at a .342 clip in limited plate appearances her freshman year, going 10-for-11 in stolen bases. This year, while starting at second base for the first time in her career, she’s 38-for-39 – the one time she was caught was in a game against Eastern Mennonite, and Fulk claims that he has video evidence that she was in fact safe.
“I’ve gotten better at my backdoor slide and my jump to first base,” Anderson said. “I think [Coach Fulk] is more confident in me now to be safe than last year.”
And next year, Fulk said, he is planning on letting Anderson hit back on the right side occasionally, noting that she “has some pop” on the right side.
“We see it every day in practice where she is a good hitter [from the right side],” Fulk said. “She just hasn’t developed the confidence that it takes to be a good hitter at this level yet. She will get there.”
In the meantime, she’ll just keep stealing bases – and breaking records. With 48 career steals in less than two seasons, Anderson is already just two behind teammate and senior Hillary Rees for the career record at BC. At the current rate, she’ll catch Rees this spring – Rees has stolen only six bases this year.
“I work really hard, so it’s nice to see your hard work pay off,” Anderson said. “Every record set is made to be broken, so hopefully I’ll just keep setting it really high.”
A Master Thief
BC Soph Sets School Steals Record
Posted: April 23, 2012
By PAUL MONTANA
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