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Be Hit and Hit Back

April 10, 2012

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

Hitters talk all time about “being in the zone.”

This season, it seems like no one has been more in the zone than Yellow Jackets’ Kate Kuzma, Danielle Dike and Kelsi Weseman— the strike zone, that is.

Heading into Tuesday’s double-header against Georgia Southern, the trio of seniors ranks among the leaders in the ACC in getting hit by pitches. Kuzma is tied for the league lead, with 11, Dike is tied for third with 10, and Weseman is sixth, with nine (Georgia Tech batters have been hit a league-high 49 times, 11 more than the nearest ACC team.).

That’s just in ACC play. Overall, Kuzma and Dike are tied for the team lead with 13, while Weseman has 11.

It’s amounting to one heck of a “Farewell Tour” for the seniors, and something they have difficulty explaining.

“I guess maybe pitchers are trying to be a little bit more careful and if they’re going miss they miss off the plate instead of over the plate,” said Weseman. “So sometimes they miss a little too far and it hits me, I guess.”

Weseman, a two-time ACC Player of the Week and an All-American last season has come to expect such rude treatment. She’d been hit 43 times heading into this season (16 times as a freshman, 13 as a sophomore and 14 as a junior).

For Dike and Kuzma, it’s a little more out of the ordinary, as Dike came into the season having been hit nine times in her first three seasons, while Kuzma had only been hit 12 times.

“I have no idea what’s going on,” said Dike. “I know all three of us go up to the plate with a plan. I guess if our plan’s working, they don’t want to pitch to us, I guess. We foul off a bunch of balls and then, I guess, they get tired of pitching to us. I don’t know.”

Some presents left on the legs of Danielle Dike (left)
and Kate Kuzma (right) from opposing pitchers

Dike admits it is getting frustrating, as she’d been hit 13 times in 55 at-bats or 23.6 percent of her at-bats, but seems resigned to the fact that getting hit is part of her game this year.

“It kind of makes me mad but that’s because I’m a pinch-hitter and I get one at-bat a game,” she said. “So if that’s my only bat and I get hit, I’m kind of like, ‘What the heck?’

Even this summer when I was playing I got hit a lot. I couldn’t tell you why,” she added. “But I thought that was over with. Then I come into this season and I’m still getting hit a lot. I’m like, ‘Okay. I guess this is just going to happen.’ I guess it’s just my year to get hit.”

Kuzma can understand her increase in plunkings. An admitted “plate-crowder,” she agrees with “the plan” aspect of Dike’s thinking and is a little more philosophical than Dike, which she can be as she gets two, sometimes three, at-bats a game.

“It’s how we bat. We get close to the plate, we’re good at hitting a certain pitch so we just stick to that plan,” she said. “If they throw a ball at us that’s great because we get on base that way. It definitely comes with the job. If you’re going to have your toes on the line there’s a higher possibility of them hitting you or throwing at you.

“This year, where I stand in the box is different,” she added. “My goal is to get on base, whether that was getting a hit or drawing a walk or getting hit by a pitch.”

Weseman theorized that it’s not a matter of right or wrong on opposing pitchers’ parts but, instead, a matter of right or left.

“I don’t have anything to back this up, but I guess it’s kind of a lefty thing because growing up I always got hit,” said Weseman, the only left-handed hitter of the three. “Even my dad, when he would throw BP, he’d be fine throwing to all the other kids that were right-handed, but when I came up he’d pop me once.”

The hole in Weseman’s theory is left-handed-hitting center fielder Hayley Downs, who coming into Tuesday was the only Yellow Jackets regular NOT to have gotten hit by a pitch.

That’s a good thing according to Downs.

“The last time I got hit my thumb broke in half,” she said with a smile — or was it a grimace? — as she remembered the pitch.

But not being the only regular with a zero in the HBP column has hardly made her a pariah.

“I honestly didn’t know that,” said Weseman. “She still does a pretty good job of getting on base. I guess, whatever works for her.”

“I guess she’s the lucky one,” said Dike. “She hasn’t gotten hit. She doesn’t have the bruises or the marks.”

Certainly not like Dike, who revealed two softball-shaped black-and-blue marks on her calf, and Kuzma, who had similar marks around her knee.

Kuzma and Dike have turned the pain into their own personal game-within-a-game, the score of which both know well.

“We don’t really want to get hit but now it’s kind of a competition, who can get hit the most,” said Dike. “As soon as she gets one I tell her, ‘I’ve got to catch up. I’ve got to catch up.’ Totally joking around. Then I go to bat and I get hit. We actually signal each other from first, our number. It’s really funny.”

“Right now, we’re tied with 13,” said Kuzma, adding with a laugh, “It’s kind of like, we’re excited if each of us gets a hit but we’re even more excited if we get hit by a pitch.”

They’re determined to keep Weseman at bay.

“We joke sometimes about how she’s catching up, how she’s coming to take the lead from me and Kate,” Dike said. “We’re like, ‘No you’re not!”

“This is one area she’s definitely not going to beat us,” said Kuzma.

Each subscribes to a different theory on whether or not to rub after getting hit — Weseman doesn’t as she was taught it makes things worse, Kuzma believes rubbing the spot right away makes it feel better, while Dike is simply philosophically refuses to do so, living with the pain — but all three agree they’ll continue to take the hit for the good of the team.

“My strategy was to have a high on-base percentage because that’s basically been my role, either to move runners or to get on base and score runs,” said Kuzma. “This year it’s been kind of my role. So if Ashley [Thomas] doesn’t get on, the role of the No. 2 hitter is to get on any way you can, either by a walk, a hit or a hit-by-pitch. I’m like,’ Alright. I’m doing my job. So I’ll keep it up.'”


Note — Dike took the lead after a doubleheader with Georgia Southern using her one at bat on the day, to earn her 14th hit-by-pitch of the season. Kuzma needs to catch up


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