Topcat: Bennett making impact as run producer for Eastern softball

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Topcat: Bennett making impact as run producer for Eastern softball

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

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Senior first baseman Kylie Bennett has been doing better this year than she has in the past, she said. She has proven that by driving in 17 runs in 28 games played. Bennett has driven in 13 runs in 36 games played in 2016.

Bennett’s 17 RBIs is a team lead, four more than senior April Markowski, who has the second-most on the team this season. Bennett and Markowski each have five home runs to lead the team.

Heading into this past weekend’s series with Murray State, Bennett said she had been struggling at the plate. But in the final game of the series, she came through at the right time for the Panthers driving in the first run of the game, which turned out to be enough for the win.

Bennett’s RBI in the first inning gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead, enough run support for sophomore pitcher Jessica Wireman to fire her fourth shutout of the season.

Murray State was throwing Bennett inside. Being a lefty, she tried to pull the ball to right field, but it just all comes down to the situation and where the pitchers are placing the ball.

She went 1-2 in the game with the game-winning RBI and a walk.

Senior Kylie Bennett hits the ball to center field March 22. at Williams Field against Butler. Bennett leads the team with 17 RBIs.

Sean Hastings
Senior Kylie Bennett hits the ball to center field March 22. at Williams Field against Butler. Bennett leads the team with 17 RBIs.

When Bennett simplifies her game, she is at her best.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself to do good and get these good hits,” Bennett said. “Honestly, I just tell myself it’s a game and whatever happens, happens. Honestly, I truly don’t believe that in my heart because to (the team) it’s more than just a game. But if I got up there and I don’t care as much, I tend to get better hits that way. It’s crazy.”

The success Bennett had in that game reassured her and gave her more confidence that she can still help out the team to win some games.

There are five seniors on the Panthers’ roster this season, with four of them batting one after another. Bennett bats clean-up, following Katie Watson, who bats third, and Haylee Beck, who bats second. Bennett precedes Markowski, who bats fifth.

Markowski said having the four of them bat right after one another is nice, and she has confidence in Beck, Watson, and Bennett to get hits and drive the runners in.

“We just have fun together,” Markowski said. “Kylie and I shake hands before she goes to hit. It’s like a little routine of ours. Now we have Beck in the mix at that number two spot so I feel like it takes a lot of stress off of us because we have been playing together for so long we are just comfortable and confident in one another.”

Bennett added that the relationship she has with all of the seniors on the team is great. This includes Jennette Isaac, who is the other senior on the team.

Bennett is a lefty power hitter on the Panthers roster, but a lot of lefty hitters in softball are slap hitters.

Isaac, freshman Kayla Bear and Beck are the other three usual starting lefty hitters for the Panthers, usually approaching the plate as slap hitters.

“We always communicate with each other,” Bennett said. “This past weekend we saw a lot of drop balls, so we tell each other if the ump is calling the drop ball or not,

especially for lefties. I’m lefty power, so it’s kind of different what they’re throwing to lefty slappers, but I try to go off what they’re throwing to lefty slappers too.”

Bennett not only has surpassed her RBI season total, but she has already hit more home runs this season in fewer games played.

Her success so far this season also has come with her being more comfortable, and the team having good chemistry.

To Eastern coach Angie Nicholson, Bennett’s personality is finally starting to come through, which has allowed her to have more fun in her final year as a Panther.
“She is having fun this year,” Nicholson said. “I know I’m happy to see that from her. She’s just got a completely different outlook on things and we’re finally starting to see her personality come through.”

Last season, Bennett struggled to get base hits but has been seeing the ball better this season. It has really helped with her confidence, Nicholson said.

“Kylie has a ton of power and she knows that,” Nicholson said. “She knows if she can put the ball in play more, that power will be able to show.

Having gone through three years of playing at Eastern, Bennett has gotten a feel for some of the other team’s pitchers and will know who and what to expect when they play them, she said.

Tennessee Tech’s lefty pitcher Danielle Liberatore has pitched against the Panthers in the past, so they had an idea of what was coming. Liberatore tends to throw drop balls.

When facing a drop ball pitcher, Bennett moves up in the box to catch it before it breaks.

The lefty vs. lefty matchup is a little different for Bennett because most pitchers they face are right handed. After one time through she gets used to it, she said.

Eastern will be facing a rise ball pitcher this weekend against Eastern Kentucky, and Bennett has begun to prepare herself for it.

Bennett is in the midst of her final season at Eastern, which has motivated her to play better, not only for herself but for her parents as well.

“This is it. It’s now or never,” Bennett said. “I think it’s really hard to think about how much time my parents have spent with this sport, so it’s not only ending for me, it’s ending for them, too. I’m not just doing this for myself. I’m mostly doing it for my mom and dad.”

While Bennett has been a big run producer this season, she dreams of coming to the plate with the bases loaded with the chance to win the game, she said.


Sean Hastings can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]