Feb. 18, 2011
By Jon Cooper
It’s an element that makes a song memorable.
In a sports context it’s something that winning teams and players talk about having, while losing teams lament lacking and search for.
Alysha Rudnik knows about the importance of rhythm in either context.
The 19-year-old native of Lawrenceville is an aspiring musician — she and high school friend Elisabeth Peevy have recorded several songs on YouTube under the name AEmusic91. They also are on Facebook under A&E Music — while athletically, she was a two-sport star at Buford High School. She has already has become an important part of the incoming freshman class that is making the No. 10 softball team go.
In her collegiate debut, Rudnik was named the ACC Player of the Week after hitting .588 (10-for-17) with three doubles, a triple, a homer and five RBIs, with a 1.059 slugging average and a .611 on-base percentage, while helping the Yellow Jackets to a 5-0 start and the title of the National Collegiate Invitational. She entered the weekend leading or among the team’s leaders in just about every offensive category.
“I don’t really know what to say about it. It’s really too soon to say anything,” she said, almost prophetically, as she suffered her first hitless game in Tech’s 5-4 victory over Illinois Friday afternoon in their opener of the Felsberg Memorial Invitational. “But it’s cool to have been able to come out and do so well. I didn’t really know what I was expecting. I wasn’t trying to think of those categories. I wanted to focus on solid contact and just helping the team.”
Head coach Sharon Perkins wasn’t sure what to expect either, although Rudnik had certainly dropped hints.
“She was a monster at the plate. It seemed like anything that came in the zone, she just hit it,” said Perkins. “She had a very consistent fall. So I kind of felt like she would have a start like that.”
Not only did the talented freshman hit, she also was versatile in the field, starting three games behind the plate and two more at third base.
“I’ve always kind of been utility, if they need me to go anywhere I could play,” she said. “In high school and in travel ball, I mainly caught, but coming in I knew I wouldn’t just be catching because I have two really good catchers ahead of me (junior Kate Kuzma and senior Jessica Weaver). So I kind of wanted to play anywhere I could get on the field. I like the split between third and catching because catching can wear out your body. So third is a really good offset for that.”
Rudnik credits a number of current players for helping her find her way to Tech. Among the most influential was pitcher Hope Rush, her teammate two years ago in travel ball (freshman outfielder Hayley Downs played on that same team).
Ironically, Rush was the only pitcher that Rudnik didn’t handle over the weekend. But among the pitchers she did work with was senior Kristen Adkins, the the ACC Pitcher of the week.
Rudnik made as good a first impression as a receiver as she did a hitter.
“She’s great,” said Adkins. “I love that Alysha gets really, really low to the ground and gives me a wide target, which is great, since I throw mostly dropballs. Whenever the pitchers throw a good pitch she frames it up and she’s like, ‘Oh, yeah. That was great,’ right before she throws the ball back and that makes you feel great. It doesn’t matter who we have back behind the plate, who I’m throwing to. I know that they’re going to do their best job and it’s going to be great.”
“The pitchers love throwing to her and she’s solid at third on defense, also,” added Perkins. “She’s great to have in both spots.”
Rudnik comes from a big family (two sisters, three brothers, with three of the siblings were adopted), and was always competitive. She took up softball after watching her oldest brother play and older brother by a year, taking up the sport.
“My dad (who played college baseball) would always work with us,” she recalled. “He would be out in the yard hitting us ground balls and stuff like that. Seeing my older siblings play made me want to play and I was always competitive with them. If they were doing it I wanted to do it, too. That kind of grew into me really loving it.”
Once Rudnik decides she’s passionate about something there’s nothing that will stop her. She’s self-taught on the guitar.
“I started in high school, my freshman year,” she said. “I kind of just learned from watching YouTube videos. I’d hear a song on the radio and be like, ‘I want to play that.”
Rudnik and Peevy are planning a summer trip to Nashville to further pursue music, but there’s a long time until then. So for now, Rudnik plans to leave her pop solely on the softball field (although Perkins hasn’t ruled out her possibly singing the National Anthem before a game).
While Rudnik knows that the level of competition at the college level is unlike anything she’s ever seen, she can draw on her experience of winning.
Buford has won five state titles in its existence. Three of them are in softball, the other two are in girls’ basketball. Rudnik is a common denominator in all five.
“I feel like I was blessed to be on such good teams,” she said, “There was no coincidence. I feel like we had something special on each of those teams and we had coaches who knew how to get us prepared for those games.
“I guess after winning the first time you have a formula,” she continued. “It’s different for every team but you know what it takes. You know physically, the practice, the mentality of what it takes to do well. You can’t be scared. You have to go out there and take it because you know you’re not going to be given anything.”
So far she’s making the transition from winning in high school to winning in college without missing a beat.