Coach looks to soph shortstop for leadership

02/18/2014 11:10 AM

02/18/2014 11:11 AM

A series of injuries derailed the Mallard Creek’s softball season last year, but it didn’t prevent Breanna Herman from having an excellent freshman campaign.

Despite playing out of position most of the season, Herman still managed to lead the Mavericks (6-12) in virtually every offensive category.

“Things are going well right now,” said Herman, who switched from shortstop to catcher last season when Chelsy Vasquez went down with shin splints. “Last year was hard, with so many injuries, and now that we’re over those, we’re going to try to make the playoffs.”

Herman finished the season with a .596 batting average, 23 runs scored, 17 RBI and two home runs.

“Breanna came on real strong, especially for a freshman,” said Mavericks coach Jacob Watson. “Our conference isn’t an easy one to come into as a freshman and be as effective as she was.”

It was during the Mavericks’ second conference game that coach Watson knew he had something in Herman.

“I remember she came to the plate and hit a home run against a really talented Hough pitcher,” said Watson. “I knew then that she was going to be special.”

While possessing the most power of any of the Mavericks hitters, Herman has remained incredibly difficult to strike out. In 51 plate appearances last season, she punched out just three times.

“She’s able to cover the entire plate extremely well,” said Watson. “She’s also great at hitting the ball where it’s pitched. She’s always barreling up the ball.”

Asked what her thought process is like before stepping into the batter’s box, Herman replied, “I try not to think about anything, really. I usually try to think more in practice and get my muscle memory down then. At the plate, it’s all about being relaxed.

“I tend to see the ball really well,” she continued. “I’ve had hitting lessons with the hitting coach at Belmont Abbey and go to the cages and work out a lot on the weekends, too.”

Without a senior on this year’s team, Watson said, he’s looking to younger players like Herman to step into leadership roles a bit earlier than he might otherwise.

“We’re looking for Bre to become one of the leaders on the team,” he said. “She’s young, but she’s already become a leader through the way she plays.”

When she was younger, Herman’s father, Chris, was her coach. But as she has improved, he has tried to step back a bit and enjoy his daughter’s success from a distance.

“It was great to coach her when she was younger,” said Chris, an assistant coach on Breanna’s Lady Lightning travel team. “I wanted her to be on a team because she deserved to be and not because her father was the coach. So I’ve taken a step back and let her learn from the other coaches. Besides, she’s gotten to the point now where she’s well beyond my knowledge.”

Being young hasn’t stopped Herman from beginning to consider her college options. She’s interested in Appalachian State, UNC Wilmington and UNC Charlotte, to name just a few schools.

“I’m really just trying to work on my mechanics and make sure everything is set for when I play in the showcase tournaments this summer,” said Herman. “I want to make sure my technique is perfect, so when I’m at the showcase I’m able to succeed.”

After missing much of last season with an arm injury, Mavericks starting pitcher Savannah Runyan is back to 100 percent, coach Watson said. There’s also a battle going on between two freshman at the catching position, which should free up Herman to stick at shortstop all season.

“We’re looking to staying healthy this year,” said Watson. “It’s my third year (coaching) here, and I came in with a group of freshmen that have been our anchor. I’m looking forward to us competing a little bit.”

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