Members of the Saluki softball team aren’t quite sure why Allie VadeBoncouer allows herself to be hit by so many pitches, but they aren’t complaining about the results.
The sophomore catcher has been plunked 27 times this season, a figure that leads the team and the nation.
“I really don’t know why she doesn’t move,” senior shortstop Haley Gorman said. “Maybe it’s because her stance is closed and she has nowhere to go.”
Coach Kerri Blaylock said she is just as puzzled.
“I guess (pitchers) try to throw inside to her; that is the most logical thing,” she said. “The kid just wears it. She owns it if they are going to try to come inside.”
VadeBoncouer said she thinks of it as an easy way to help the team by getting on base.
“Some people get out of the way if the ball is coming at them, but it’s a free base, so I’m just going to stand in there and get it,” she said. “I don’t get out of the way.”
Blaylock said VadeBoncouer is taking advantage of a new rule this year that allows for players to get hit by pitches more often if they don’t attempt to get out of the way.
“The new rule in the NCAA is if the ball is in the batter’s box, you don’t have to move,” she said. “Allie understands that. Her on-base percentage is ridiculous right now because she will walk; she will get hit by a pitch. She does all the little things that we need her to do, and it really does work.”
VadeBoncouer reaches base more than half the time with a .510 on-base percentage, which ties senior Mallory Duran-Sellers for tops on the team.
VadeBoncouer said she thinks the strategy gives her an advantage offensively, because pitchers begin to favor throws out over the plate. While staying away from inside pitches may keep VadeBoncouer from taking an easy, albeit painful, walk, a pitch over the plate will likely be met by her bat.
The catcher leads the team in RBIs, with 48, and is tied for the team lead with seven home runs.
Blaylock said being a catcher has played a major role in VadeBoncouer’s willingness to be hit by pitches.
“I think it’s a natural reaction for most people to get out of the way, but Allie’s been having balls thrown at her for her whole life,” she said. “She’s not scared, and I love it.”
According to official NCAA statistics, three of the five players hit by pitches the most this season were catchers.
VadeBoncouer said being a catcher has eliminated any fear of being hit because she has to block the ball with her body often when she is behind the plate.
Most players would rather do the hitting themselves with their bats, she said, but she is willing to do whatever it takes to get on base, no matter how afflicting it may be.
“I get bruises every game and they are kind of painful,” she said. “I don’t think anybody else wants to deal with it. Twenty-seven times is a lot.”